Let's be clear, The Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007 (Pub.L. 110-140 originally named the Clean Energy Act of 2007), was whole-cloth a Bush-era policy. For those playing along at home, this is the much maligned, nightmare law enabling the jack-booted thugs from the EPA to knock down your door and unscrew your incandescent light bulbs. At least that what folks like Joe Barton (R-TX) would have you believe.
Let’s be clear, The Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007 (Pub.L. 110-140 originally named the Clean Energy Act of 2007), was whole-cloth a Bush-era policy. For those playing along at home, this is the much maligned, nightmare law enabling the jack-booted thugs from the EPA to knock down your door and unscrew your incandescent light bulbs. At least that what folks like Joe Barton (R-TX) would have you believe.
Last week when Congress voted to block enforcement of rules that would have restricted the manufacture and sale of incandescent light bulbs, Barton hailed the move as, “an early Christmas present for all Americans… [the action] restores the freedom, at least temporarily, for you to choose the light bulbs you want.”
The term “dim bulb” comes to mind here. “Freedom… to chose the bulbs you want.” Horse-hockey. The idea Americans are deprived of innate freedoms by virtue of being made to waste less energy, save money and unyoke us from Middle Eastern oil is just about as stupid as anything ever said in Congress.
This might be less absurd if light bulb manufacturers themselves weren’t in support of the mandate. According to Kyle Pitsor, vice president for government affairs with the National Electrical Manufacturers Association, U.S. manufacturers have already invested millions of dollars updating factories to produce more efficient bulbs. As Pistor stated in an email to the media, this move creates, “confusion in the market for every American who is interested in securing their own energy savings for their families and their communities.”
What the Tea Party extremists fail to grasp is that their predilection for seeing evil where none exists only results in spiting themselves. This isn’t “nanny state” politics. It’s actually a rare instance of the government promoting energy policy that moves us from the traditions of waste and inefficiency and into a new paradigm for consumption.
With some of the new LED bulbs, their color temperature is similar to incandescents. They consume a fraction of the electricity and they have the potential to burn for decades. Yes, at present such a bulb costs ten times what a traditional one does, but very few incandescent bulbs last twenty years.
By any objective measure, they are a better mousetrap. Why then all the hubbub? Why has this become the line in the sand?
It’s pretty obvious the Tea Party light bulb zealots have endorsed a favorite tactic of spoiled children the world over: Just because you told me I can’t do something, I’m going to pitch a fit until you let me do it. In view of the facts, they are largely alone in their umbrage. Most Americans support technologies that waste less and decrease our dependence on countries that hate us. Given the proliferation of incandescent alternatives, most Americans have already adapted. Even industry has gotten on board.
We should be heartened that the Bush and Obama administrations concur on this important issue. Moreover, we should embrace similar EPA dicta. The recent mercury emissions regulations for coal-fired electric plants is another step in the right direction. Again, most of the companies effected by the new standards are on board. While some of the older power plants will be shuttered, many more will be retro-fitted to reach compliance. This will mean lots of jobs, all over the country. If nothing else, it gives us a real alternative to the failed cap-and-trade system.
It will also be a boon to public health. According to the EPA, the new rule will result in up to 11,000 fewer premature deaths, 4,700 fewer heart attacks a year and other health benefits. Maybe the Tea Party would prefer we continue to spew damaging amounts of mercury, arsenic, chromium, nickel and acid gases so we can light their wasteful light bulbs. After all, it’s our God-given right to have neurologically damaged babies, develop asthma and die of heart attacks. It’s time Barton and his ilk plug back into reality.
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Matthew Pate, a Pine Bluff native who holds a doctoral degree in criminal justice, is a senior research fellow with the Violence Research Group at the University at Albany. He may be contacted via firstname.lastname@example.org