Legislation + Regulation

Arizona Republican Hopes to Use Light Bulbs to Provoke Fight with Federal Government

Arizona state legislator Frank Antenori has proposed a bill (HB 2337) to assert state’s rights using light bulbs, as reported by AZCentral.com in this article.

The point of the legislation is that if incandescent lamps are manufactured in Arizona, then Federal legislation–namely, the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007, which raised efficacy standards for household incandescent lamps–does not apply, as the Constitution grants the Federal government legal authority to regulate interstate commerce, not intrastate commerce. So if the Feds try to apply EISA 2007 to Arizona for lamps made in Arizona, citizens could sue the government.

The bill is a “kindler, gentler” version of a Montana gun law that 23 other states imitated, including Arizona.

It’s an interesting legal argument. I personally like that it protects American industry during a time that it needs protection. Unfortunately, it is not practical, and again, I’m struck by the blatant, rank hypocrisy of this type of legislation.

Give me inefficient lighting or give me death!

Why are politicians like Antenori so principled when it comes to what light bulbs we buy, but not when it comes to the Federal government conducting illegal search and seizure, torture, wiretapping–all of which is against the Constitution?

Sure, you can listen to my phone calls, read my emails, put a camera in my house, search my backpack at an airport or bus depot or train station, arrest people without giving them the right to face their accuser in court, illegally enter people’s homes without a warrant, and try people in front of military courts instead of civilian courts, but DON’T RESTRICT MY CHOICE OF LIGHT BULBS?

His house is on fire, and this guy is obsessing over whether he turned off his stove.

Rep. Antenori stated his concerns with EISA 2007 include exposing consumers to mercury in CFLs as well as eliminate American jobs.

But the mercury argument is wrong. Period. In fact, he is insisting that the citizens of Arizona be exposed to MORE harmful mercury, not less, by trying to preserve today’s incandescent lamp.

And besides, consumers won’t have to buy CFLs. Philips and Sylvania now have halogen screw-in lamps that are essentially an equivalent technology. So in 2012-2104, consumers will still be able to enjoy incandescent lighting; they’ll just have to pay a little more than they were paying before.

AZCentral.com reports that if the bill fails, Antenori is “ready with his second line of defense: Low-flow toilets and mandates to save water.”

Oh, great. Another worthy use of time for Arizona’s government. Antenori will fight for Americans’ right to waste water despite declining fresh water supplies and Arizona’s own water problems.

  • craig o February 22, 2010, 11:15 AM

    Instead, Arizona should build a halogen lamp factory AND a wallbox dimmer factory, both powered by solar energy, and off the grid.

  • Kevin Willmorth February 23, 2010, 3:14 PM

    Since 40% of AZ power comes is from coal (EIA data), his argument against CFLs and mercury is unfounded. If you factor in the available opportunities to recycle and properly process used fluorescent lamps, it is an outright fabrication based on simple minded selective data logic (surprise, surprise. The idea of making lamps in Arizona is silly – since the cost of existing products is sourced from exploited labor markets. Not sure how many incandescent lamps will move off shelves when they cost as much as a CFL or LED product. Of course if this becomes a pride issue, i can see silly consumers buying $9.00 incandescent lamps to consume 75% more energy, just to prove how right they are.

    It’s funny to think that conserving energy is such a feared concept that it requires dragging constitutional law into it. The state complies with fed alcohol and tobacco laws, Food and Drug laws – even thought it grows food, cattle, and makes its own alcoholic beverages – yet there is no wimping about the violation of states rights at that level. The states representative also have no issue with forcing their conservative views upon the other 49 states, so the idea that this is about state independence lacks all credibility.

    Only when it comes to – protect your eyes – the conservation of our natural resources – that the politicians comes running out of the woods bleeting destruction of our freedoms.

    Its a real belly tickler to see a state with some of the highest potential for solar power, filled with Nuclear plans, coal and gas fired plants, and a dried up water system. Yeah, they got it all figured out.

  • peter dublin March 20, 2010, 10:52 AM

    Re legislator take on light bulb ban, that you mention…..

    A ban on light bulbs is wrong,
    also for the fundamental energy and emissions arguments given:

    People pay for their electricity,
    -but a limitation on their use (like a light bulb ban)
    can indeed be warranted:
    If there is an energy shortage,
    and if its the best way to deal with emissions.

    Neither holds:
    there is no energy shortage, given nuclear/renewables, and any fossil fuel shortage (oil/coal/gas) leads to price rises and people buying energy-saving products anyway – no need to legislate for it.

    Light bulbs don’t give out CO2, power stations might not either.
    Where there is a problem, Deal with the problem:
    CO2 emission are and will be lowered anyway through emission processing, energy substitution and grid interconnections that give a relatively fast spread of low-emission electricity

    For many reasons, ACTUAL savings turn out small anyway, see below website:
    And any big savings is of course calculated on what people
    WOULD have bought, if they could:
    No big savings from banning what people don’t want to buy, and they overwhelmingly choose ordinary light bulbs for their many advantages, given a choice (8-9 times out of 10, in both USA and EU, 2008)

    Still want to target bulbs?
    OK – what is the ban about?
    Unsafe bulbs? No, that’s the other lot!

    The ban is simply about reducing electricity consumption.
    Now, what do politicians NORMALLY do to reduce consumption of a safe product in society (and even unsafe alcohol and cigarettes!) ?

    Yes – taxation.
    Remember – it’s about reducing electricity consumption (unwarranted, but ok)
    So energy source or electricity can be taxed
    = people can decide for themselves how to reduce their consumption!

    light bulbs are taxed,
    which being cheap , means they can absorb a lot of tax and deliver big government income (EU and USA 2 billion sales each, 2008) – income that can go to energy+ environmental spending (renewable projects, home house insulation etc) reducing energy and emissions more than remaining light bulbs raise them.
    Consumers keep choice, and energy saving bulbs can be cheaper than today through overall sales tax on them being lowered – consumers will accept tax anyway since a ban is the publicized alternative.

    Tax is wrong for similar reasons to bans, but
    a better option than bans also for ban proponents…

    about Light bulb ban
    Light bulb tax

  • Craig DiLouie March 20, 2010, 9:12 PM

    Hi Peter,

    Thanks for your message. You make a great case for your point of view, but I must respectfully disagree with some of your points:

    1. There is no ban on general service incandescent lamps in the USA. There is a modest increase in efficacy standards. Philips and Sylvania already have halogen screw-in lamps that comply and provide roughly the same performance as incandescents but with 30% energy savings.

    2. Given the tradeoffs with nuclear, I wouldn’t assume that as part of the mix. Renewables still have a way to go. It is proven that energy efficiency is the cheapest energy resource that the USA has. So it makes sense for policy to guide investments in efficiency.

    3. I’d like to see carbon emissions dealt with at power plants. Until that happens, I will continue supporting energy policies that reduce emissions at the point of use.

    4. Energy costs have outpaced the rate of inflation and the rate of energy-efficient lighting penetration in existing buildings is still fairly low, even in very old buildings (<1980). This proves once again that organizations do not always act in their rational self interest, continuing to pay higher than necessary operating costs and putting investment capital in riskier investments with lower returns--or rather, they interpret their self interest in different ways, often not kind to investments in energy efficiency.

    5. As for "unsafe" bulbs, what bulbs are "unsafe"? If you are bringing up the mercury argument, incandescent lamps result in more mercury emitted into the environment than CFLs do because they require more power generation. You could make the argument that we could scrub the byproducts at the point of generation, but since that is not happening today (I believe there's a law requiring power plants to slash emissions that takes effect around 2017), and 2017 is a long way away, I'm going to have to say, factually, that incandescent lamps are unsafe compared to CFLs.

    But again, if you don't want to switch to CFLs, don't. There is no ban on incandescents. If you want to keep buying them, then you know who to lobby: Your nearest lamp manufacturer. Tell them you want lamps that provide incandescent performance and comply with the Act. Philips and Sylvania have already done so.

    It's all just a tempest in a teapot, if you ask me.

  • peter March 22, 2010, 2:28 PM

    trying to post a long reply…
    see if works splitting it up…

    Hello Craig,
    Thank you for your interest in my reply.
    I would first of all say that I agree about the need to deal effectively with energy and emissions, but efficiency standards are in my view not the way forward.

    In general, why all efficiency standards are wrong = http://ceolas.net/#cc2x

    Re your points, in the same order =

    I have seen similar reply also from legislators,
    eg “We are not banning any products,
    only setting efficiency standards on them”
    Setting efficiency standards on products is of course the same as banning products that do not meet those standards.
    Unfortunately setting efficiency standards alters product characteisticsin terms of pwerformance/appearance/construction as well as price – see above link, for lots of examples how that works with buildings, cars, washing machines as well as light bulbs

    Now, as far as incandescent lights are concerned there are indeed several improvement attempts in the pipeline.
    I list several of them on

    Halogens are still very different from other incandescents – in many respects : http://ceolas.net/#li8x and also cost more
    Even to the extent they are similar, that is in my view not an excuse to deny choice, given that there is no shortage and that consumers are paying for the electricity they use.

    Energy source:
    Whether nuclear, renewable, or current fossil fuels, as in my previous comment consumers are paying for the electricity they use: there is no need for society to save energy and the future shortage of fossil fuels with price rises gives a demand for energy efficiency products anyway, without needing legislation.

    I agree that continued use of fossil fuels means emissions,
    and that its a slow long way to direct processing and storage
    — grid interconnections as also planned for USA rapidly spread
    low emission energy from where they are best produced, and its also generally quicker/cheaper to extend existing power plant installations than to build new ones
    I do agree that companies resist competition in their grids etc, a wider subject, but nonetheless it is changing also by legiaslation
    As you may have seen on my website,
    I cover USA electricity grid development, including links

    — even if consumers need targeting, taxation is better for all sides, as said


  • peter March 22, 2010, 2:29 PM


    Re rational self-interest:
    Hello? What is rational self-interest?
    A product that saves energy is NOT necessarily more desirable than one that does not!
    In fact, “energy wasting” products need to be particularly attractive – or noone would buy them!

    Now, the assumption is that people only buy incandescents becuase they are CHEAP – and that they should be HAPPY to save energy.
    Yes, the bulbs are cheap -no crime- but you don’t keep buying
    a cheap product if it doesn’t satisfy what you want from it:
    Ordinary light bulbs have a pleasing simple appearance, are
    versatile with dimmers and sensors, are quick to come on in the cold,
    easy to make bright, including in small sizes, and have a warm
    broad-spectrum light quality.

    Nor do people avoid alternatives only because they are expensive!
    Ever see the battery advertisements of toy rabbits that keep on drumming,
    or commercials for expensive washing up liquids that wash lots of dishes?
    People do voluntarily buy “expensive products that are cheap in the long run”
    – if they MEET their expectations of what the product is for in the first place.
    Such as providing a fast, decent and bright light output.

    Different lights have different advantages.
    The idea to “Switch all your lights and save lots of money”
    is like saying “Eat only bananas and save lots of money”.
    As it happens, many households already have at least 1 energy saving
    fluorescent light, or CFL
    (around 1/2 of households in typical industrial countries have 1 or more CFLs).
    So maybe they feel that is enough:
    Of course, maybe people don’t like CFLs or LEDs or other lights enough to use more of them.

    People do buy new technology if it meets their needs – it doesn’t mean having to ban the old.
    Radio tubes weren’t banned just because transistors were invented.
    They were bought less anyway.

    This gives the irony:
    If new technology is GOOD and wanted – why ban old technology?
    If new technology is NOT GOOD and wanted – why ban old technology?
    Think about it.

    The “mercury from coal emissions being worse”
    is a tale that keeps doing the rounds.

    It assumed that untreated coal power use dominated,
    and that CFLs saved as much as lab tests suggested
    – which did/does not hold.
    Note how USA EPA already 2005 qualified the notion:
    I have covered the subject extensively, with references,
    on http://ceolas.net/#li19x
    Also as I point out there and you say, both mercury and carbon emissions are being reduced with new technology anyway.
    In a nutshell:
    We know where the power station chimneys are and are dealing with their emissions.
    We do not know where all the dumped CFLs leaking mercury are (given the failure of recycling) -and so can’t do anything about them.

    RE Unsafe bulbs:
    USA EPA strict guidelines of what to do about CFL breakages in the home has been ridiculed
    – but has more than been supported by Maine state testing around a year ago, which tightened guidelines. Again see ceolas.net/#li19x for references etc – and preceding sections re fire, radiation and so on.
    That said:
    I agree that all types of bulbs are basically safe to use (or they wouldn’t be allowed – most of us have used fluorescent tube lights in the kitchen for a long time!)
    But there is a strange irony of banning a light bulb that’s been safely used for over 100 years, which can’t be said of the alternatives.

    “Incandescents aren’t being banned”
    see point 1 above.
    Current ordinary types certainly are being banned, and have specific advantages….

    7. Storm in a teacup
    But in reverse!

    The overall savings from the petty ban on the overwhelmingly most popular lighting device on the market is small anyway.

    Lighting in total is only a few percent of total electricity and energy use, particularly in temnperate climates.
    (see website US dept of Energy data and other references,
    also ceolas.net/#li6x and ceolas.net/#li13x onwards for all the referenced reasons that supposed overall savings don’t hold up).

    In other words,
    a nice visible token measure for politicians to show “green cred”, that they are “actually doing something to save the planet”,
    rather than dealing with real energy and emission issues.

    Political committees rather than markets decide what people can use:
    The unholy alliance of well-meaning environmentalists and global multinational executives are therefore well served,
    with big profits -as admitted by manufacturers- on new expensive lighting outsorce manufactured in China and transported round the world on bunker-oil fired ships,
    with a handy ban on simple cheap locally made competition,
    so people are forced to buy what they otherwise wouldn’t.

    More about the unpublicised industrial politics behind the bans,
    and the railroading institutional politics that led to the recent EU ban:

  • Craig DiLouie March 22, 2010, 3:00 PM

    Hi Peter,

    Good discussion! Here are my responses, focusing on the most serious points of disagreement in the interests of brevity:

    1. Setting efficiency standards on products does, as you point out, result in banning products that do not meet those standards. But products don’t matter. We’re talking about devices that deliver desired performance at a certain cost. The halogen screw-in lamps from Philips and Sylvania deliver virtually equivalent performance, albeit with a higher price point (as of today). Whether a given commodity 100W incandescent product from a particular manufacturer survives from one day to the next doesn’t really matter as long as consumers can get equivalent performance for a similar cost. So consumers will still have a choice, but that was not up to the government, but up to manufacturers, whether they wanted to make products that complied with the Act.

    3. Regarding emissions, all the things you point to as coming in the future are great. Until then, I will support policies that promote reduction of emissions at the point of use.

    You write, “Even if consumers need targeting, taxation is better for all sides, as said.” Taxing energy is in my opinion political suicide in the USA.

    4. A product that saves energy is more desirable than one that does not, all other things being equal in regards to performance, depending on the extent of the energy savings. As halogen screw-in lamps that comply with the Act provide virtually equivalent performance, energy-wasting incandescents are attractive only in that they are cheap (and because consumers are ignorant of their choices to save energy or don’t care enough to save energy).

    Again (and again), this policy does not require use of CFLs. Consumers still have a choice. Lamp manufacturers also have a choice–to provide compliant incandescent product.

    You ask: “If new technology is GOOD and wanted – why ban old technology?” The answer is simple: To accelerate its adoption to meet policy goals formed to promote a perceived public interest–such as reducing overall energy consumption and reducing carbon emissions.

    5. Mercury emissions produced by burning coal is worse than any amount of mercury emitted by consumption of CFLs, based on all available evidence. It’s not a “tale.” Whether energy savings are 60% or 75%, it’s the same. You could save 50% or less and it would still hold true. As for any product being unsafe, I know certain conservative commentators have ridiculed cleanup procedures for broken CFLs for ideological reasons based on them hating CFLs primarily because Al Gore likes them. But the fact is you would clean up the CFL the way you would any chemical spill in the house. Standard house cleaners people keep under their sink would be cleaned up the same way–in a ventilated space, wearing gloves, and isolating the waste–but you don’t see Rush Limbaugh shrieking about Mr. Clean. The fact is CFLs are not unsafe–no more unsafe than incandescents, which get hot enough to burn skin and which are short-lived and require more maintenance (getting on ladders).

    So to summarize, energy efficiency is the cheapest energy resource available today. The government perceived reducing carbon emissions and energy consumption as a public good and set energy standards on the most inefficient lighting product available today. Lamp manufacturers have stepped up and produced compliant product, providing virtually equivalent performance and generating 30% energy savings. Lighting is 20% of electricity consumed in the USA, so the savings will be significant. History is littered with wreckage proving the free market is not all wise nor especially is it all beneficent–in fact, it is often just the opposite, as evidence by the recent financial crash that wrecked the global economy. An “unholy alliance” of environmentalists and government to force lamp manufacturers to produce a marginally more efficient light bulb and support worth policy goals is hardly the end of the world.

    In short, a tempest in a teapot.

  • peter March 23, 2010, 11:07 AM

    // I agree re good discussion, and you make interesting points
    – excuse delayed reply, seemed a problem reposting – will cut some links and try again! //


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