By Andrew Restuccia - The Hill
New light bulb efficiency standards will begin phasing in on Jan. 1 despite intense opposition from conservatives, who have blasted the rules as a textbook unnecessary federal regulation.
While Republicans secured inclusion of a measure blocking funding for enforcement of the standards in a year-end spending bill, energy efficiency groups say the provision will have little practical impact. The Energy Department rules will nonetheless go into effect at the start of 2012.
“The [spending bill] cut funding for enforcement, however the law is still in effect,” said Jack Gillis, spokesman for the Consumer Federation of America. “It is our expectation that companies will still comply with the law.”
Steven Nadel, executive director of the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy, said companies have been preparing for the new light bulb efficiency standards since Congress passed the 2007 energy law requiring traditional incandescent light bulbs to be 30 percent more efficient starting in 2012.
“The major manufacturers have already made the investments to follow the law,” he said. “They’re law-abiding companies who aren’t going to break the law.”
The GOP-backed measure to cut funding for enforcing the light bulb standards “probably is not going to have much impact,” Nadel said.
While the measure prevents DOE from enforcing the standards through fiscal year 2012, Nadel said that states can still require companies to follow the efficiency rules.
Gillis, of the Consumer Federation of America, added that individual companies can pressure other companies to comply with the standards in order to keep a level playing field.
He said the light bulb standards got caught up in a growing wave of Republican disdain for federal regulations.
“The bottom line is the light bulb became a political victim,” Gillis said. “It was portrayed as an example of overzealous regulation, when in fact none of that is actually true.”
Inclusion of the measure blocking funding for the light bulb standards in the broader year-end spending bill was a political victory for Republicans, who have been targeting the regulations for months.
Republicans often describe the standards as a “light bulb ban,” arguing that the rules would greatly restrict consumer choice by pushing out traditional incandescent bulbs in favor of more expensive, but more efficient, LED (light emitting diode) and CFL (compact fluorescent light) bulbs.
Environmental and energy-efficiency groups note that the standards do not ban incandescent bulbs, but instead require them to be more efficient. While more efficient light bulbs are often more expensive at the point of sale, experts say they save consumers money on their electricity bills over the long term.