Today, House Republicans voted to block light bulb efficiency standards passed in 2007. For months, conservative media have demonized the standards, portraying them as far-left, nanny state overreach. For instance, Fox's Charles Payne declared this week that the efficiency standards are designed to advance the "tree hugger" ideology:
Occasionally, in their hurry to link the efficiency standards with the "tree hugger" left, they've gotten a key fact wrong. A Washington Times column a by Ted Nugent attributes the light bulb standards to "this administration's energy policy," when in fact they were passed by George W. Bush.
Indeed, the history of federal efficiency standards is covered in the fingerprints of the last three Republican presidents.
In 1987 Ronald Reagan signed into law efficiency standards for 12 classes of home appliances, including refrigerators, stoves and air conditioners. The Associated Press reported at the time (via Nexis) that only six Senators and two House members voted against the legislation.
In 1992 George H.W. Bush added additional efficiency standards for "lights, shower heads, electric motors, and commercial heating and cooling systems," according to an AP article from the time (via Nexis.)
The Department of Energy's Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory found that these standards save consumers billions of dollars. The lab's analysis of efficiency standards that became effective between 1988 and 2006 concluded that "The standards had saved residential and commercial consumers an estimated $64 billion by the end of 2005" and "The estimated cumulative net present value of consumer benefit amounts to $241 billion by 2030, and grows to $269 billion by 2045."
The most recent standards for light bulbs were passed with wide margins and bipartisan support. Rep. Fred Upton, a Republican who co-authored the provision, said the efficiency standards were simply "common sense" in a December 19, 2007, press release retrieved via Nexis:
"We are pleased that the President mentioned the importance of light bulbs at today's signing ceremony for the Energy Bill. As co-authors of the legislation's lighting efficiency provisions, we note the huge savings that will come from phasing out the antiquated 100-watt incandescent bulb by 2012 and requiring a three-fold increase in bulb efficiency by 2020.
The average home produces twice as much greenhouse gases as the average car, and lighting accounts for 20 percent of home energy bills - which average about $1,900 a year. Using so-called 'Energy Star' light bulbs can save consumers hundreds of dollars each year while preventing hundreds of pounds of greenhouse gas emissions over their lifetimes.
Added Upton: "Current incandescent bulbs on store shelves are obsolete and highly inefficient - only 10% of the energy consumed by each bulb is for light with 90% wasted on unnecessary heat. Today's incandescent bulbs employ the same technology as the bulbs Thomas Edison first created over 120 years ago - and it is well past time for the light bulb to catch up with 21st century technology. This common sense, bipartisan approach partners with American industry to save energy as well as help foster the creation of new domestic manufacturing jobs. Every home will be on the front lines in the effort to reduce pollution and save energy, and we will be successful one light at a time."
Upton has since changed his mind.