Weather Forecast


Light bulbs - freedom of choice

This is a tense time in Congress. The critical issues pile up one after another. How can our representatives keep up with the volume of critical questions demanding answers? One congressman said it's like trying to get a drink of water from a fire hose. Consider just a few items on the list: the deficit, proposed spending cuts, the future of Social Security, high Medicare expenses, health care reform (the issue isn't going away), the budget, tax loopholes, the war in Afghanistan, government shutdown, and ... of course, the Light Bulb Freedom of Choice Act.

Did you know that in 2007, congress enacted a law that, starting Jan. 1, 2012, our old traditional light bulbs will be phased out and can no longer be sold? President George W. Bush signed the bill. The newer, curly fluorescent bulbs use only a fourth the energy of the old bulbs. This is considered an energy-saving move, encouraged by the U.S. Department of Energy.

Not so fast says U.S. Rep. Michelle Bachmann of Minnesota. At the end of March, she introduced her Light Bulb Freedom of Choice Act, which would repeal the phase-out. Bachmann says she is pro-choice on light bulbs and that the government has no business telling the people what light bulbs to buy. The congresswoman has proposed a resolution that would require the U.S. Controller General to prove three things: that consumers will realize a net savings on light bulbs and money spent on new light fixtures; that the phase-out would reduce overall carbon dioxide emissions in the U.S. by 20 percent by 2025; and that the phase-out will not pose any health risks, including risks with mercury containment in the new bulbs.

How many members of congress does it take to change a light bulb?

This really is a global warming issue. Bachmann says the claim of human connection to global warming is "voodoo, nonsense, hokum, a hoax." She gave an Earth Day speech in 2009 in which she said about carbon dioxide, "It's a part of the regular life cycle of the earth."

The Department of Energy claims the new bulbs will save the average consumer $7 a month because they use so little energy, though power companies could lose money on the new technology. The new bulbs cost more but would result in long range savings. On the safety issue, the new bulbs do contain a small amount of mercury, but the electrical and manufacturing industries agree with the Department of Energy and the environmentalists that overall the new bulbs will reduce mercury emissions because they use so much less electricity -- much of which is produced by burning coal which belches out greenhouse gases and mercury.

Right now lots of folks are stockpiling the old, less expensive bulbs while they are available, and the debate goes on. Rep. Bachmann has indicated an interest in running for president in 2012. If she runs and wins, it will be too late to stop the phase-out, so she'll have to get her Freedom of Choice enacted before the end of this year.

The thing about the Freedom of Choice, when you think about it, is that bulbs are not the light at the end of the tunnel, they're only the tip of the iceberg. If we can phase out energy saving light bulbs, maybe we can phase-out some other "for your own good" rules and regulations with laws like the Carbon Dioxide Freedom of Choice Act, Text While Driving Freedom of Choice Act, Speed Limit Freedom of Choice Act, or the Clean Water Freedom of Choice Act.

This is a free country and it would be even freer if we're all given more freedom of choice. Think about it.