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Bulb Wars

Under a 2007 law, traditional incandescent 100-watt light bulbs must be 30 percent more efficient starting this year. However, funding to enforce those efficiency standards was blocked by a provision inserted into the omnibus 2012 federal appropriations bill passed by Congress in December.

As written, the provision bars the U.S. Department of Energy from spending money to implement or enforce light bulb efficiency standards through September 30. Despite the restriction, Congress did not repeal or adjust the standards themselves or change the timeline for implementation. Major lighting manufacturers like General Electric, Phillips, and Osram Sylvania have announced they will continue to comply with the 2007 law.

But worries about the opportunity for mischief abound. The National Electrical Manufacturers Association—a Rosslyn, Virginia-based national service organization of companies that fashion products used in the generation, transmission, distribution, control, and end use of electricity—claims the lack of funding puts law-abiding manufacturers at a disadvantage.

“The inability of DOE to enforce the standards will allow those who do not respect the rule of law to sell inefficient light bulbs in the U.S. without fear of enforcement, creating a competitive disadvantage for compliant manufacturers,” claims NEMA.

NEMA notes that several energy-efficient lighting options are available, and that the new standards could save each household more than $100 a year.

Contrary to some reports, the 2007 law does not ban incandescent bulbs—only those varieties that don’t meet the improved efficiency standards. Consumers can choose halogen incandescent light bulbs as well as compact fluorescent lamps (CFLs) and light-emitting diodes (LEDs). All of them use less energy to emit the same amount of light, or lumens, as traditional incandescent light bulbs.

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