The Trump administration announced Friday that it would block a rule designed to phase out older incandescent bulbs and require Americans to use energy-efficient light bulbs.
In announcing the move, the secretary of energy, Dan Brouillette, who is a former auto lobbyist, said the administration had chosen “to protect consumer choice by ensuring that the American people do not pay the price for unnecessary overregulation from the federal government.” The new rule was unnecessary, he said, because innovation and technology are already “increasing the efficiency and affordability of light bulbs without federal government intervention.”
The rule, which would have gone into effect on Jan. 1, was required under a law passed in 2007 during the administration of President George W. Bush.
Noah Horowitz, director of the Natural Resources Defense Council’s center for energy efficiency standards, assailed the move, saying the administration had “just thumbed its nose at Congress, America’s families and businesses, and the environment.”
The group has estimated that the administration’s action could cost American consumers an extra $14 billion on annual energy bills.
In September, the Trump administration announced it would roll back a rule to apply energy efficiency standards to specialty light bulbs like three-way, flame-shaped and globe-shaped bulbs. At that time, it also indicated that it might block the rule regarding the general-purpose bulbs as well.
In response, several states — including California, Vermont and Colorado — passed standards that would match the federal requirements called for under the Bush-era law.
The Natural Resources Defense Council and other environmental and consumer groups have gone to court in an effort to stop the rollback affecting specialty bulbs, as did 15 states, New York City and the District of Columbia.
Horowitz said that the response to this additional move on traditional pear-shaped bulbs would be a similar challenge. His group, he said, “will be exploring every option, including legal action, to fight this illegal rollback.”
The National Electrical Manufacturers Association, the trade group for manufacturers of light bulbs, has said that government requirements for greater bulb efficiency are unnecessary. The group’s response to the September announcement stated that Americans were already buying more efficient bulbs and that the final rule “will not impact the market’s continuing, rapid adoption of energy-saving lighting.”
The group did not immediately respond Friday to requests for comment on the latest action by the administration.
The cost of energy-efficient bulbs, once far more expensive than incandescent models, has plunged. The Energy Department news release noted that the average cost of LED bulbs has dropped by nearly 90% since 2008.
According to the Energy Department, installing LED bulbs in your most frequently used light fixtures can save hundreds of dollars over the lifetime of the bulbs.
Consumers have complained about the quality of light from some compact fluorescent bulbs, but the newer generation of “halogen incandescent” and LED bulbs, which have all but replaced old incandescent bulbs, generate a richer, warmer spectrum.
Trump has long railed against federal requirements that make consumer appliances and goods more efficient, including water-saving toilets and light bulbs.
“The new bulb is many times more expensive, and I hate to say it, it doesn’t make you look as good,” he said at a White House meeting this month. At a rally in Michigan on Wednesday, he told the crowd, “We’re bringing back the old light bulb.”
The light bulb rollback is part of a multipronged effort by the Trump administration to weaken a broad array of rules designed to fight climate change, many of which were passed under the Obama administration.
The evolution of more efficient light bulbs is an encouraging spot in efforts to reduce energy use and greenhouse-gas emissions. Energy consumption in American homes has risen over the decades, but has dipped in recent years, and the humble light bulb deserves much of the credit.
The new standards would have required everyday bulbs, the pear-shaped ones traditionally found in most sockets around the home, to use 65% less energy than regular incandescent bulbs based on the technology developed by Thomas Edison. LED bulbs already meet that standard.
Steven Nadel, executive director of the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy, said, “You wouldn’t use a phone from the 1870s, so why use Edison’s 1870s light bulb?”