Trump Wants to "Rollback" Lighting Efficiency Standards

Jason Lomberg, North American Editor, PSD



Remember the incandescent light bulb ban? Turns out it’s like jaywalking – on the books, but seldom enforced. And a recent proposal from the Trump Administration would grant another stay of execution to certain types of Edison light bulbs.

If you haven’t followed the incandescent saga, it goes something like this – in 2007, President Bush signed the Energy Independence and Security Act (EISA) into law. Amongst other things, EISA set efficiency standards for “general service lamps” that would effectively outlaw incandescent light bulbs by 2014.

And no, it wasn’t an official “ban” – more like efficiency standards that most Edison bulbs couldn’t possibly meet. At the time, advocacy groups and the DOE, itself, clung to the first part of that statement.

“There  is  no  ban  on  any  technology  and  incandescent  light  bulbs  are  not  going  away,” claimed the Department of Energy.

True – from a “certain point of view” that even Obi Wan Kenobi would sneeze at – but setting efficiency standards with the express goal of “phasing out” less efficient products and then insisting it’s not a ban is an act of Orwellian perfection.

The 100 watt bulb was to phase out on January 1, 2012, followed by the 75 watt bulb a year later, before closing out with the 60 and 40 watt bulbs in 2014. Bulbs that fell outside the 310–2600 lumens range, plus appliance lamps, rough service bulbs, 3-ways, colored lamps, stage lighting, and more were exempt.

In 2012, the US federal budget actually delayed EISA’s lighting standards by defunding all enforcement, but in 2017, the Obama Administration enacted stricter efficiency criteria, killing the exemptions and subjecting all light bulbs to EISA’s guidelines by 2020. Trump’s DOE wants to preserve those exemptions. And the response was about what you’d expect.

“This is another senseless and illegal Trump administration rollback that will needlessly hike our energy bills and spew tons more pollution into the air,” said Noah Horowitz, director for Energy Efficiency Standards at the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC).

“In the annals of Trump’s blinkered pursuit of undoing everything President Barack Obama did, no matter how basic or commonsense, this move ranks near the top,” claimed Joe Romm from ThinkProgress.

The National Electrical Manufacturers Association (NEMA), though, takes umbrage with the “rollback” claim.

“The alleged “rollback” of energy savings relies upon the elimination of incandescent versions of these specialty lamps by virtue of an illegal definition of general service lamp,” NEMA says.

A bit like changing the rules after the fact when you don’t like the result. Actually, it’s exactly like that.

NEMA feels the market should decide (and, in many respects, already has). Accordingly, the feds tried to propagate an “illegally broad definition of general service lamp” because it hasn’t been tracking consumer behavior (or doesn’t care).

“American consumers, retailers, and manufacturers have beaten DOE to the regulatory punch so that by the third quarter of 2018 the general service LED light bulb represents about 65% of light bulb shipments,” NEMA claims.

What do you think? Does the market need a gentle nudge?