This month, the Congressional provision that defunded the enforcement of the Energy Independence & Security Act’s (EISA) first light bulb regulations will expire. The rider, buried within an omnibus spending bill, did not overturn the law requiring higher light bulb efficiency (and phasing out the standard 100W incandescent bulb, with 75W to follow next year, and 60W and 40W in 2014), but it blocked any federal funding from going toward enforcing it for the remainder of the fiscal year, which concludes Sept. 30.
Just as when this politically charged reprieve was passed, the delayed enforcement has little bearing on the lighting industry. Many manufacturers had already ceased production of traditional incandescents and channeled their own funding toward developing sustainable alternatives, with recent refinements making LED lighting in particular more palatable (and affordable) for consumer use. “It’s business as usual,” was the official statement from the American Lighting Assn. (ALA) when the enforcement funding was pulled.
The gesture did, however, give certain politicians a symbolic opportunity to express their displeasure for the measure. The lowly incandescent light bulb came to represent freedom, while fluorescents were vilified as unsafe mercury-delivery devices and LEDs were too expensive and elitist.
In my view, the ingenuity that was accelerated by EISA has actually opened up a whole new range of choices for consumers. We’ve even seen improved halogen technology, enhancing incandescent light to meet the new standards.
The real “problem” is that life was a lot simpler before we had all of this newfound choice. We could buy a pack of bulbs anywhere and just look for the appropriate wattage. Now we have to look for lumen output and color temperature. Lighting Facts labeling helps shoppers make comparisons, but it will take time for them to acknowledge and understand new labeling.
The process did just go from no-brainer to head-scratcher, but is it really any different from other advancements that have come about to make life better and more efficient? It takes research these days to make a smartphone purchase because of all of the available options in functionality, but is there anyone in their right mind who would trade one in for an old-fashioned rotary-dial phone to avoid the “hassle”?
Right or wrong, the legislation is already in place. The ship has sailed and the industry is on board. With education, showrooms can help consumers get their sea legs, too.