How Many Bureaucrats Does It Take to Change a Light Bulb?

Republicans failed to overturn upcoming light bulb energy-efficiency standards, and keep the marketplace clear for the cheap, energy-wasting bulbs that have changed little since Thomas Edison invented them in 1879.

Retailer Bonnie Haupt sells thousands of light bulbs each year. Her biggest customers are airports, colleges, courthouses and homes.

But many customers are upset over new government rules which will mean that they must switch to low watt, energy saving light bulbs next year.

The change means traditional incandescent light bulbs will be phased out and replaced with those squiggly shaped fluorescent lights or the more pricey LED lighting.

"Yes they are energy efficient, they burn cooler. They've got a little bit of a flicker. They've got a warming up period to go with. We have a lot of people unhappy," according to Bonnie Haupt of Inland Lighting Supplies.

Haupt points out that LED lighting costs about 60% more than other lights.

And environmental groups say the toxic mercury contained in fluorescent lights means contamination of landfills, or even your home if a light bulb gets broken.

"I don't know if I would vacuum the area, partly because vacuuming can aerosolize the mercury even more, and mercury vapor can be quite dangerous if you breathe too much of it, but the exposure from one light bulb should be very minimal and shouldn't be a significant issue," says Dr. Eric Frykman, Public Health Officer.

But consumers like Rada Thomas say it's not about the environment or safety. Thomas believes Americans should be able to buy any light bulbs they want, and calls the mandate government intrusion.

"I think it's a catch 22. Isn't the government in everything? Pretty much, got their hand in stuff? But, do I really want the US government in everything and where do we draw the line. Where do we say enough is enough, and all right, we're not going to do light bulbs. Don't they regulate toilet paper," according to Rada Thomas, a consumer.

Republican lawmakers on Capitol Hill agree.

Republicans in the House brought a vote to the floor on Tuesday night which would have overturned light bulb energy-efficiency standards, scheduled to take hold on December 31st of this year, and keep the marketplace clear for the cheap, energy-wasting bulbs that have changed little since Thomas Edison invented them in 1879.

That measure needed a 2/3rds majority to pass, but Republicans weren't able to get enough yes votes.

The vote was 233 to 193.

Some manufacturers are trying to bridge the gap by offering advanced energy-saving 72-watt incandescent bulbs that meet the new standards, yet look like traditional bulbs.

But no matter what the outcome of this high-wattage battle, Bonnie Haupt will still be selling light bulbs of some sort.

"Everybody needs lights," says Haupt. "We're here to educate people. We're constantly getting educated ourselves."

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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