MICHELE NORRIS, host:
Congress is not entirely occupied with the debt ceiling. Tonight, the House took up the battle of the bulb. Republicans want to repeal a law they say will finish off the incandescent light bulb. A 2007 law requires bulbs to be 30 percent more energy efficient, starting next year. The mandate won broad bipartisan support when it was passed, but that support appears to have dimmed, as we hear from Kirk Siegler of member station KUNC.
KIRK SIEGLER: At home-improvement stores like this Lowe's in suburban Denver, sales of compact florescent and LED light bulbs have risen steadily recently.
Mr. JIM THURBER (Salesman, Lowe's): The older ones were made like this, which had a little bit fatter tubes, little bit bigger.
SIEGLER: But salesmen Jim Thurber says lately, sales of incandescent bulbs are also up.
Mr. THURBER: I've had people come in and stockpile these things, who are afraid they're going to lose them.
SIEGLER: That's because they've heard about a new law that goes into effect next year that will phase out 100-watt traditional bulbs, with 60-and 25-watt bulbs following in the years after. But some Republicans opposed to such mandates want to repeal the phase-out.
The BULB bill, or Better Use of Light Bulbs Act, seeks to capitalize on a growing anti-government mood felt in some corners of the country.
Mr. RUSH LIMBAUGH (Radio Host): Most Americans resent, deeply resent, their liberties and choices being infringed upon.
SIEGLER: Conservative talk show hosts such as Rush Limbaugh have been taking up the cause of late.
Mr. LIMBAUGH: Let there be incandescent light and freedom. That's the American way.
Mr. JIM PRESSWOOD (Federal Energy Policy Director, Natural Resources Defense Council): A lot of the energy behind this effort to repeal the light bulb standards is based upon a complete fallacy, which is that the incandescent bulb is banned, which is certainly not the case.
SIEGLER: Jim Presswood is federal energy policy director for the Natural Resources Defense Council. He says people will still be able to buy incandescent bulbs after 2012. In fact, those bulbs that meet the standard are already on the shelves of many home-improvement stores.
And Presswood notes energy efficiency standards are nothing new. They've been requirements for appliances since the Reagan administration.
Mr. PRESSWOOD: Washers, refrigerators, air-conditioners - all throughout the household, these standards have done a great service to our country.
SIEGLER: The NRDC just released a study showing that the light bulb mandates will translate to a $90 a year savings in energy bills for the average household.
Mr. THURBER: So the earlier bulbs, they take a while to warm up. The newer bulbs...
SIEGLER: Lowe's salesmen Jim Thurber says he tells his customers the switch to more energy-saving bulbs will lead to more than a 30 percent cut in energy usage.
Mr. THURBER: You get a big city like Denver, if everybody switches over it makes a big difference.
SIEGLER: But Thurber admits the newer bulbs aren't all they're cracked up to be. They don't fit every lamp, some take a long time to warm up, and some customers even complain of getting headaches. And then there's aesthetics.
Ms. SHERMA ERHOME: I think they're ugly.
SIEGLER: Customer Sherma Erhome says she's reluctantly buying these compact fluorescents anyway. They do save her money, despite being more expensive up front. She just doesn't like being told what she can and cannot buy.
Ms. ERHOME: I think it takes away people's freedom of choice, and I just do not like the government mandating what I'm going to do anywhere.
SIEGLER: The BULB bill's prospects aren't even a sure thing in the House. And the Democratically controlled Senate would be unlikely to vote in favor of a repeal.
For NPR News, I'm Kirk Siegler, in Denver.
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