Incandescent Bulbs Not Going Away, Just Changing

Lighting manufacturers are pushing back against widespread rumors that the federal government is banning incandescent light bulbs. Rush Limbaugh and some Republicans in Congress are calling for the repeal of a 2008 law signed by President Bush that sets tougher standards for light bulbs beginning in 2012. They claim consumers would be forced to use less popular fluorescent bulbs. But bulb manufacturers say that claim is false.

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STEVE INSKEEP, host:

Now, you may have heard that the government is planning to do away with incandescent light bulbs. That's gotten some people all worked up. Some House Republicans say they will repeal what they call a light bulb ban.

We asked NPR's Elizabeth Shogren to shed some light on the matter, and she reports that the public will still have lighting options, despite a new law requiring companies to manufacture more energy-efficient bulbs.

ELIZABETH SHOGREN: Conservative broadcaster Rush Limbaugh and a group of Republicans in Congress are trying to save the incandescent light bulb. They say it's threatened by new standards that start taking effect next year. Congresswoman Marsha Blackburn from Tennessee told Fox News that once the new law kicks in, Americans will have no choice but to use compact fluorescent bulbs.

Representative MARSHA BLACKBURN (Republican, Tennessee): They are told by federal mandate: You have to buy this mercury-filled, curlicue bulb. There has to be a stop to this overreach of the federal government.

SHOGREN: So will the government really take away your choice in light bulbs?

Randy Moorhead, vice president and lobbyist for Philips Electronics, says no.

Mr. RANDY MOORHEAD (Vice President, Philips Electronics): There has been no ban on the incandescent light bulb. The incandescent light bulb actually lives. It's just going to be 30 percent more efficient.

SHOGREN: An energy bill signed by President Bush three years ago requires light bulbs to use at least 30 percent less electricity than traditional bulbs. But Moorhead says in anticipation of the new standards, companies like his have started selling new incandescent bulbs that comply with the law. They're made with a slightly different technology than Thomas Edison's invention. They use halogen gas. Moorhead says consumers won't notice a difference in the way they look or work compared to old-fashioned incandescent bulbs.

Mr. MOORHEAD: They're just going to find their electricity bills are a lot lower.

SHOGREN: The light bulb standards will start kicking in next month in California and will phase in across the rest of the country starting in 2012. But manufacturers say many customers already are choosing to switch to more efficient lighting. In recent years, the demand for incandescent bulbs has dropped by 50 percent.

Elizabeth Shogren, NPR News, Washington.

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