Of Texans and Light Bulbs. And Unconstitutional Laws.

What is it with Texans and light bulbs lately?  The gradual increase in energy efficiency requirements of light bulbs required under the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007 survived Congressman Joe Barton’s (R-Texas) challenge last week when the Better Use of Light Bulbs (BULB) Act, which would have repealed the standards, failed to pass the House by a vote of 233-193.  But on Friday, an amendment attacking the same requirements, introduced by another Republican Texan, Michael Burgess (representing my old hometown), was added to the House bill governing the Department of Energy’s 2012 fiscal budget. The amendment strips funding for enforcement of these standards, but is unlikely to survive the Senate’s consideration of HR 2354 (which also funds the Army Corps of Engineers and the Interior Department Water Programs).  

The challenged provisions in the 2007 energy law require manufacturers to make new bulbs that use approximately 27% less electricity by 2014. That’s all.  As reported in recent stories, manufacturers rose to the challenge, already putting incandescent bulbs into stores that are 30% more efficient than the traditional models and sell for only slightly more.  Such bulbs will save the average family – including Texans – about $100 per year.  What’s more, the lighting industry supports the new standards.

The recent supposed controversy over an energy efficiency measure that easily passed Congress with wide bipartisan support, was signed into law four years ago by President Bush (yet another Texan), and now bears the support of not only environmentalists and consumer groups but also the regulated industry itself, is more than a bit surprising, even in today’s highly partisan Congress.

But not as surprising as what’s going on in Texas itself. In late June, Governor Rick Perry signed into law HB2510, a bill that overrides the federal mandate for incandescent bulbs made and sold in Texas, so long as they have “Made in Texas” clearly stamped on them.   The law requires the attorney general to defend citizens of Texas from prosecution by the federal government for manufacturing or selling such light bulbs in the state. It is difficult to see how the Texas legislation could survive constitutional challenge, though the bill analysis prepared for state legislators states that,  “whatever the outcome, protecting the rights of Texas manufacturers is well worth the constitutional fight.” 

Which begs the question: are there actually any manufacturers of incandescent light bulbs in Texas?  As it turns out, No.  But there are LED light bulb manufacturers.

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