Light bulb policy becomes Rep. Joe Barton's cause

The light bulb you grew up with likely won't be the light bulb you'll grow old with unless U.S. Rep. Joe Barton has his way.

The Arlington Republican is spearheading an effort to tell Congress to keep its hands off everyone's light bulbs, trying to repeal a section of a 2007 energy independence act geared to start phasing out 100-watt incandescent light bulbs next year.

The act, passed by Congress and signed into law by President George W. Bush, would essentially remove incandescent light bulbs by 2014, leaving consumers to mostly use the swirled, compact fluorescent bulbs.

"This is about more than just energy consumption," Barton said. "Voters sent us a message in November that it is time for politicians and activists in Washington to stop interfering in their lives and manipulating the free market.

"The light bulb ban is the perfect symbol of that frustration," he said. "People don't want Congress dictating what light fixtures they can use."

Supporters say the bulb change is about advancing technology, saving energy and money, and helping the environment.

Energy Star statistics show that if one light bulb in every American home were replaced with an Energy Star-approved compact fluorescent, enough energy would be saved to light 3 million U.S. homes a year, reduce energy costs by about $600 million and prevent 9 billion pounds of greenhouse gas emissions, the amount generated by about 800,000 cars.

"Replacing all the nation's inefficient bulbs with energy-efficient ones will save as much electricity annually as that consumed by all the homes in Texas," said the Natural Resources Defense Council, a New York-based environmental group.

The new rule doesn't completely ban incandescent light bulbs but creates new standards for the bulbs, such as requiring 100-watt bulbs to be 25 percent more efficient. After that, similar changes will go into effect for 75-, 60- and 40-watt bulbs.

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