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Originally published Thursday, July 14, 2011 at 3:57 PM

Light bulbs for Luddites: Congress wastes time

Congress wasted valuable time this week debating a four-year-old law on energy efficient light bulbs. The repeal effort was unsuccessful. No one could explain how this absurd debate creates badly needed jobs, because it doesn't.

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SOME lesser lights in Congress wasted valuable time this week with an ill-considered effort to undo light bulb efficiency standards that were part of a broader law signed by, of all environmental radicals, President George W. Bush.

House Republicans who supposedly went to Congress seven months ago to help the nation create jobs got sidetracked in a ridiculous congressional hoedown as they tried — thankfully in vain — to repeal regulations that increase efficiency standards for light bulbs.

No one could explain how this effort helps create jobs, but the new rules taking effect next year were excoriated as an example of government overreach: Don't tell me which light bulbs I need in my house.

Democrats managed to defeat the attempted repeal because the measure had been brought up under rules that require a two-thirds majority; the requisite number of votes was not forthcoming.

As a result, new standards still will be phased in. Starting Jan. 1 and through 2014, bulbs will need to be 25 to 30 percent more efficient. In the second stage, bulbs will be required to be 60 percent more efficient by 2020.

Republicans are correct that the new bulbs are more expensive than familiar incandescent bulbs. Regular bulbs cost about 35 cents and new lights range from, say, $1.50 for a halogen incandescent to perhaps $20 for light-emitting diode or LED bulbs.

But, and this is the point, the higher cost of new bulbs will be offset by savings on energy bills of consumers, perhaps as much as $50 a year by 2015, with national consumer savings potentially reaching $6 billion a year.

In 2007, when the bill was passed, the expectation was that incandescent bulbs were on the way out. But new technologies increase incandescent bulb efficiency.

Efficiency is the point. The goal now should not be to revisit every law new members of Congress do not like. Government has a legitimate interest in greater fuel efficiency for automobiles and greater energy efficiency for light bulbs. Duh.

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