Thursday, January 2, 2014

Crony Capitalists, Not Environmentalists, Killed Traditional Light Bulbs

By Timothy Carney

Say goodbye to the regular light bulb this New Year.

For more than a century, the traditional incandescent bulb was the symbol of American innovation. Starting Jan. 1, the famous bulb is illegal to manufacture in the U.S., and it has become a fitting symbol for the collusion of big business and big government.

The 2007 Energy Bill, a stew of regulations and subsidies, set mandatory efficiency standards for most light bulbs. Any bulbs that couldn't produce a given brightness at the specified energy input would be illegal. That meant the 25-cent bulbs most Americans used in nearly every socket of their home would be outlawed.

People often assume green regulations like this represent the triumph of environmental activists trying to save the plant. That’s rarely the case, and it wasn't here. Light bulb manufacturers whole-heartedly supported the efficiency standards. General Electric, Sylvania and Philips — the three companies that dominated the bulb industry — all backed the 2007 rule, while opposing proposals to explicitly outlaw incandescent technology (thus leaving the door open for high-efficiency incandescents).

This wasn't a case of an industry getting on board with an inevitable regulation in order to tweak it. The lighting industry was the main reason the legislation was moving. As the New York Times reported in 2011, “Philips formed a coalition with environmental groups including the Natural Resources Defense Council to push for higher standards.”

Read the rest here.


  1. My entire house uses LED lights at a cost of well over $3000. While its a large house, its not a mansion. I tried the CFL's but they burn out so fast that they just aren't worth it. The LED's last but they are extremely expensive but do come with 5 to 8 year warranties. I now keep the warranty cards and receipts and fully intend to return the lights if they burn out within the warranty time frame. How the average guy is going to be able to afford this is beyond me. If anything is killing the middle class its our crony capitalist government that is making everything so damn expensive only people with good incomes will be able to afford them.

  2. I've used CFLs for 10 years plus. In a medium sized, 2,800 sq ft house with 4 kids, we have over 170 lights in our house. I get a kick out of the Libertarians who complain that they like the old incandescent bulbs over the CFLs. While I wholeheartedly agree that government has no right to regulate, or make illegal, light bulb commerce, I use CFLs and LEDs for one main reason: time. If I was still using incandescent bulbs, I'd be changing 5+ bulbs per weekend. Now, it is a rare occurrence. It's a significant time saver for me, well worth the additional expense --- increasing my productivity on other more desirable ends like reading EPJ and the DAILY EPJ ALERTS!

    1. My house isn't nearly as big and not even close to 170 bulbs, so you can take your CFLs and LEDs and shove it. I like my cheap bulbs and I don't have to change them every weekend. If I want to buy and use the cheap bulbs I should be able to.

  3. The issue is not what is more efficient. The issue is that when the Federal Government mandates something, you lose choice. Incandescent bulbs are far more efficient than their predecessors, the humble candle or gas lamp. Did a Government Regulation have to be made to outlaw them? In a free society and free market, you get to decide what works best for you, not the heavy hand of government.