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Trump tackles lightbulb policy in a perfectly Trumpian way

A week after rolling back lightbulb energy-efficiency standards, Trump is talking up his rationale. It's worse than anyone expected.
In this Jan. 21, 2011, file photo, Manager Nick Reynoza holds a 100-watt incandescent light bulb at Royal Lighting in Los Angeles.
In this Jan. 21, 2011, file photo, Manager Nick Reynoza holds a 100-watt incandescent light bulb at Royal Lighting in Los Angeles. 

Last week, the Trump administration rolled back lightbulb energy-efficiency standards, which represented a pointless step backwards. As The Hill’s report on this noted, the new rule "will increase U.S. electricity use by 80 billion kilowatt hours over the course of a year, roughly the amount of electricity needed to power all households in Pennsylvania and New Jersey, according to an analysis by the Appliance Standards Awareness Project."

At a campaign rally in North Carolina earlier this week, Donald Trump addressed his policy and shed some light (no pun intended) on why he and his team adopted their latest position.

"I'm not a vain person, and I know I have no vain people especially these incredible ladies in the front, but I look better under an incandescent light than these crazy lights that are beaming down on us."

Last night, speaking to the House Republican Conference, he did it again.

"The lightbulb. People said, 'What's with the lightbulb?' I said, 'Here's the story...' And I looked at it -- the bulb that we're being forced to use -- number one, to me, most importantly, the light is no good. I always look orange. And so do you. The light is the worst."

In fairness, the president went on to make some additional comments about bulb prices, but this was nevertheless the second time this week the public heard Trump address energy policy by focusing on his perceptions of his own physical appearance.

Which is a policy dynamic that's awfully tough to defend.

To be sure, Trump's thinking on the subject has long been problematic. Nearly seven years ago, he published a bizarre tweet that read, "Remember, new 'environment friendly' lightbulbs can cause cancer. Be careful -- the idiots who came up with this stuff don't care."

Just so we're all clear, energy-efficient lightbulbs are not bad for your health. Trump simply believes strange things -- especially about energy policy, as evidenced by his assertion that wind turbines also cause cancer. (Wind turbines, in reality, do not cause cancer.)

While we're at it, let's also go ahead and note that energy-efficient lightbulbs are also not responsible for making Trump appear orange.

The sad thing is, the lightbulb policy was a bipartisan success story, initiated during the Bush/Cheney era. It was working just fine, right up until the right turned it into a culture-war conflict for reasons that have never made any sense.

There's ample room for a real debate over energy policy, but how are responsible and well-intended officials supposed to engage in real discussion over the issue when there's a president whose perspective on efficiency standards is shaped in part by how lights affect his appearance?