Taking Care Of The “Medium Screw Base”

By David Doniger, NRDC

The BULB Act – for “Better Use of Light Bulbs” – is the latest bright idea from Rep. Joe Barton, the Texas Republican who last year apologized to BP during the Gulf oil spill and more recently questioned whether there is any “medical negative” from mercury or other dangerous air pollutants.

This is a dim-watted bill.  The BULB Act would repeal the federal lighting efficiency standards that Congress adopted on a bipartisan basis in its 2007 energy legislation, signed by President George W. Bush. The bill would also block any state from setting standards to cut how much juice is used by “medium screw base general service incandescent lamps.”  It would even block states from setting building construction standards that incorporate efficient lighting.

image via Shutterstock

The 2007 energy law ordered a make-over for the old incandescent bulb, which hadn’t much changed since the days of Thomas Edison, and which wastes billions of dollars of electricity each year.  Instead of padding the bottom lines of big power companies and companies that supply coal, natural gas, and other fuels, the new standards will keep those billions in consumers’ pockets.  All that wasted electricity means more pollution that kills tens of thousands of Americans each year, sickens millions more, and drives dangerous global warming.

So to cut electricity use, save consumers money, and reduce pollution, the 2007 law requires that new light bulbs made starting in 2012 to use less electricity.  Contrary to all the over-amped hype, the 2007 law does not ban the incandescent bulb and force everyone to use compact fluorescents.  The law only requires that manufacturers make bulbs more efficient.  And rising to the challenge, bulb manufacturers are already making a variety of bulbs that meet the new standards, including incandescent bulbs that are 28-33 percent more efficient than the traditional incandescent bulb.  In the bargain, they’ve also created more than 2,000 new jobs at American manufacturing facilities.

These sensible standards will save American families $100 per household every year – $12 billion overall – money they surely can put to good use, especially in these hard times.  And it will cut all forms of power plant pollution, avoiding the equivalent of 30 large power plants.  That includes avoiding 100 million tons per year of dangerous carbon pollution, equivalent to the emissions of 17 million cars.

Barton, being a staunch defender of big energy companies and polluters, couldn’t give two cents for consumer savings and public health.  No, for Barton and other BULB Act backers, this is a crusade for “personal liberty.”

They’ll have to pry that bulb from my cold dead hand.

There is, however, no Constitutional right to keep and arm bulbs.

Fortunately, no matter how the House votes on this, the BULB Act will never become law.  Like so many other ideological bills passed by the House this year, this one will not see the artificial light of day in the Senate.

This is all about pandering to the House members’ angry conservative constituency.  But if I were playing to the Tea Party, I’d be careful about bills using the terms “medium screw base.”

Editor’s Note: This column from NRDC is courtesy of a cross post on its Switchboard blog. It is written by David Doniger, NRDC’s Climate Center Policy Director.

I am the editor-in-chief and founder for EarthTechling. This site is my desire to bring the world of green technology to consumers in a timely and informative matter. Prior to this my previous ventures have included a strong freelance writing career and time spent at Silicon Valley start ups.


  • Reply July 11, 2011


    Hmmm, let me get this. A $4 lightbulb to replace the 70c light bulb (that burns out just as fast and requires a HAZMAT squad for disposal) will save me $100 a year, right?u00a0 If it saves me $100 in my light bill, I’ll pay more than that for your stupid bulbs, so I see no savings here. You state ” manufacturers are already making a variety of bulbs that meet the new standards”. This may be true in CHINA, but here in the US, the last light bulb manufacturer has shut down. How many Americans are now jobless because of this nonsense? If you want to use the new light bulbs, that’s your choice, go for it. However, why should I HAVE to use them just because YOU like them. People on the left believe everybody is entitled to their point of view, anyone who opposes their view should be shut down (insert name calling and obscenities here). The original bill was just plain stupid, and it is now well known that most of the “global warming” (recently changed to “climate change” since we all know the earth is now cooling), was built on computer models and junk science just like the scores of “worse than Katrina” hurricanes we were supposed to have been having over the last 5 years). nnWhy does one side always try to shove what they want down the throat of everyone else? We must all drive Smart Cars (where do we put the kids’ carseats????), use ugly, dim lightbulbs (according to my light meter – it is NOT the equivalent in candle power to the incandescent bulb it is compared with), eat tofu and wash it down with a latte. I’m all for choice. If that’s what you want, good for you. But I would like to have the same option to choose as you. I want my incandescent light bulbs, I’ll drive my family size sedan, and I’ll decide what my family eats. I don’t try to tell you what to do, so leave me alone.nnI hope they repeal this stupid, stupid, stupid, job killing, eye straining bill.

  • Reply July 12, 2011


    You go indygirl. I agree with you. They burn out just as fast and are ugly to boot.

  • Reply July 12, 2011

    Laura Turner

    If the new light bulb saved so much money for people, the government would not have to mandate it and eliminate the compitition.u00a0 If there is a right to collective barganing, there should be a right to choose a light bulb.u00a0

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