Energy-saving lightbulbs remain a bright idea

By Features Consumer Reports

Seven years ago, President Bush signed a law that raised the standards for lightbulbs so they use less energy. The Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007 received broad support from both parties in Congress.

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Lighting manufacturers advocated for raising the standards, too. Companies are now selling a variety of energy-efficient CFLs, halogens, and LEDs. There are even advanced incandescent bulbs that use at least 28 percent less electricity than their energy-hog predecessors.

It’s estimated the energy-efficient bulbs will save the average American family about $100 on household energy bills annually, or $13 billion nationwide.  Prices for new bulbs have dropped too. (Find the right bulbs for every room in your home.)

At Consumers Union, the policy and advocacy arm of Consumer Reports, we think these lighting standards have been a good idea. Some lawmakers keep fighting to undo the standards, arguing that they impose a ban on incandescent bulbs, but there is no ban. Incandescent bulbs are simply becoming more efficient, and that’s a good thing.

What’s not so good: Right now, the Department of Energy cannot enforce the standards because of limits imposed by congressional opponents. The law is still in effect, and U.S. manufacturers are in full compliance, but these limits on enforcement have created confusion and uncertainty.

The opponents are now trying to extend these limits for another year. We recently joined with a coalition of business, engineering, environmental, and consumer groups to ask Congress to oppose any attempt to tie up these standards any longer. In a letter to lawmakers (PDF), the groups wrote: “By all reasonable measures, the transition has been a success. Innovative new products are on the market providing customers greater choices and more savings.”

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More choices and savings are good for consumers, the economy, and the environment. It’s time to end this long-running debate and let the lightbulb standards stand.

This feature is part of a regular series by Consumers Union, the policy and advocacy arm of Consumer Reports. The nonprofit organization advocates for product safety, financial reform, safer food, health reform, and other consumer issues in Washington, D.C., the states, and in the marketplace.

Read other installments of our Policy & Action feature.

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