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It’s surprising to see people get worked up about light bulbs. But the country’s government-mandated shift to more energy-efficient lighting is raising the ire of conservatives.

Congressman Ron Paul, in some circles considered the “spiritual father of the Tea Party,” isn’t too happy with the U.S. mandate that light bulbs become 30 percent more efficient by 2012 to 2014, phasing in a set of standards that will arguably ban incandescent light bulbs  in favor of more energy-efficient options like compact fluorescent bulbs (CFLs), halogen and LED lighting. Paul, Rep. Joe Barton (R-Tex.) along with 19 other Republican members of Congress, have proposed legislation to repeal the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007, according to USA Today.

The legislation was signed into law in 2007 by President Bush.

“I don’t think CFLs are going to wind up saving that much energy and they’re certainly much more harmful to public health,” said Rep. Joe Barton (R-Texas) in an interview with the WSJ’s Opinion Journal, referring to mercury inside CFLs and the higher price tags. “I don’t think the country wants Congress to tell them what kind of light bulb to use.”

Some have argued that the small amounts of mercury inside CFLs, if they break, do not pose a health danger. The EPA has spoken in the past about the need to recycle CFLs to keep the mercury out of landfills; it has also argued that CFLs actually emit less mercury because they use less energy from coal-burning plants, which emit large amounts of mercury into the air.

If you wondered what Republican control of the House means for cleantech, then this is a good case to consider. The argument from politicians and certain constituents seems to be that they disagree with government limitation of their energy choices and argue that CFLs can cause health problems like headaches. There’s been similar types of antagonistic sentiment over smart meter rollouts and government support for research and implementation of renewables. If the “let me choose my own energy” side wins, though, it could slow down efforts to bring the country closer to President Obama’s goal of 80 percent renewable energy by 2035.

One political activist site, Freedom Action, released a statement calling the legislation an “outrageous ban” and “outrageous government limitation on consumer choice and intrusion into the home of every American.”

A petition to support undoing the ban can be viewed online at Freedom Action even created a (surely intentionally?) hilarious video, below, that shows a man buying light bulbs off an illicit “dealer” on the street. “Now that’s what I’m talking about,” he says as a man pimping cigarettes and plastic bags produces an Edison bulb out of his pocket. He then makes the buyer take a sip of Coca-Cola to prove he’s “not a cop.” The video ends ominously: “Don’t let this be America’s future.”

Not everyone knows about efficiency legislation that will effectively phase out incandescent light bulbs, although Ikea said in January it will no longer sell them.

A survey conducted by Harris Interactive this year found that 61 percent of Americans aren’t aware of this legislation. A Wall Street Journal editorial from 2009 argued that CFLs aren’t advanced enough to completely replace incandescents. LED makers have seen technological improvements and price drops over the past few years. Companies like Bridgelux say there’s increasing demand for LED solutions in retail settings, where lights are on for 16 to 24 hours and companies are looking for ways to trim their electricity bills and environmental footprint.

Is this campaign a political ploy, or do you want to see the Edison light bulb stay? Leave your thoughts in the comments below.

[Bottom image via Wikipedia Commons, top image via Flickr/AZAdam]


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