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Incandescent light bulb wars focus on US freedom of choice

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The Republican-controlled House of Representatives passed a measure last week to block the ban on ordinary incandescent light bulbs that’s scheduled to begin next year.

Odd that a common, inexpensive household item could start a white-hot political war, but tea did that once, and last week’s vote has become a symbol of American freedom of choice — and a big election-year issue.

The anti-ban measure that passed last Friday morning was Texas Republican Rep. Michael Burgess’ amendment to the Energy and Water Appropriations bill. It blocks money to enforce the federal light bulb standards mandated in the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007.

A Time magazine blog immediately accused the Republicans of fighting energy efficiency, and trotted out a number of claims that suggest the author may never have read all 310 pages of the 2007 law.

Time claimed, “Philips and other manufacturers are already making more efficient incandescent bulbs.” That’s short of an outright lie, but it’s way beyond hogwash. What Phillips is making is halogen lamps, which are indeed incandescent, but their complex electronic circuit devices are about as close to an ordinary incandescent lamp as a third-degree burn — which they are hot enough to produce.

Philips’ 36-page “product information” manual shows on page 23 that its Clickline halogen lamp operates at temperatures as high as 480 degrees Fahrenheit (on the contacts) and 1,650 degrees F (on the bulb). By the way, aluminum melts at 1,220.58 degrees Fahrenheit.

The already-familiar compact fluorescent light contains dangerously toxic mercury. If you mention that to an energy conservation advocate, you get many answers, all adding up to “yeah, but …”

And cost is the ultimate “yeah, but …” These new energy efficient lamps are expensive.

At root, the light bulb war is not about energy conservation, but about freedom of choice. The bulb ban would limit Americans to only toxic, dangerous and high-cost products.

Examiner contributor Ron Arnold is executive vice president of the Center for the Defense of Free Enterprise.

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