Joe Mozloom and Allison Roethke shop for compact fluorescent bulbs at an Ikea store in Philadelphia, Tuesday, June 15, 2010. 
Matt Rourke/AP Photo

A bright idea

Consumers in the market for light bulbs are going to have to adjust a bit to a more efficient set of choices.
The [old 60-watt and 40-watt] bulbs, which account for about half of all standard-size bulb sales, are part of the U.S. government’s multiyear phaseout of traditional incandescents, which began nationwide in January 2012 with the 100-watt. Last year, the phaseout extended to the 75-watt bulb.
The bulbs won’t disappear overnight. A 2007 energy-efficiency law … requires that as of Jan. 1 they no longer be made in or imported into the United States. Stores can finish selling their stock.
This comes up in a political context from time to time – Mitt Romney even briefly made this a campaign issue, falsely claiming traditional incandescent bulbs have been “banned” – so it’s probably a good time to review the policy.
Let’s recap what we last discussed over the summer. In 2007, Congress tackled a pretty important energy bill, which included light-bulb provisions that weren’t considered controversial in the slightest. At the time, Rep. Fred Upton (R-Mich.) and congressional Democrats worked together on the larger legislative package, which included advanced light-bulb standards intended to spur innovation, lower costs, and improve energy efficiency.
The provision was approved with bipartisan support – the radicalization of the Republican Party has intensified quickly in recent years – and the larger bill was easily passed and signed by President George W. Bush.
What’s more, the policy has been quite successful, working exactly as intended, and producing the kind of energy innovation proponents hoped to see. It was, by any fair measure, a bipartisan success story.
We’ll still occasionally hear Republicans describe the Bush/Cheney-backed energy bill as an authoritarian scourge intended to literally keep Americans in the dark, but the transition to a smarter energy policy has actually progressed nicely and efficiently.
Still, as Jan. 1 draws closer, expect the uproar on the right to grow louder.