The US government issued a new rule on Wednesday reversing a requirement for everyday light bulbs to be energy-efficient by 2020. The rollback of the rule — originally enacted during the presidency of George Bush and finalised by Barack Obama — was welcomed by the US energy industry but criticised by environment groups.
What does reversal of this rule mean?
This new rule proposed by Donald Trump’s administration closely follows on the heels of other recent anti-environment steps that included a removal of laws to limit leaks of methane, a greenhouse gas, the removal of offshore drilling restrictions and the weakening of a major wildlife protection law. This means that light bulbs that were scheduled to be phased out by January 2020 will continue to be manufactured and sold in the US, costing billions of dollars in energy bills.
“This action will ensure that the choice of how to light homes and businesses is left to the American people, not the federal government,” the US Department of Energy said in a statement. The National Electrical Manufacturers Association and lighting companies that stand to financially benefit from this rule welcomed the announcement by the US government.
Environmental advocacy groups such as the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) protested. “The rollback will lead to higher energy bills for homes and businesses, plus significantly more pollution harming our health and the environment due to all the extra electricity that will need to be generated,” said Noah Horowitz of the NRDC in a statement.
Whom does this new rule benefit?
Critics say these steps are aimed at protecting the interests of US light bulb manufacturers and not any concern for the environment. NPR reported that US companies that manufacture light bulbs have opposed steps taken to expand the use of higher standards of energy efficiency.
“Every time a consumer shifts to an LED, that lightbulb is going to last 10 years or longer. So the lightbulb manufacturers are trying to save technology that keeps the consumer coming back to buy another bulb every year, but still wastes a lot of energy,” NPR quoted Andrew deLaski, executive director of the Appliance Standards Awareness Project, as saying.
Why are environmental groups opposing this?
Environmental groups are opposing this rule because the rollback will lead to higher energy bills for homes and commercial establishments and the extra energy that these bulbs will require will cause more pollution. LED bulbs are more energy-efficient and the George Bush administration and the US Congress had passed legislation to phase out inefficient incandescent and halogen light bulbs by 2020 because it would have cut energy bills by billions of dollars and would have meant less carbon pollution.
The NRDC in its statement implied that US light bulb manufacturers had opposed this legislation because they “make more money on incandescent bulbs that burn out every year or two than from the longer-lasting, energy efficient bulbs that would have been required”.
In the US, many people continue to buy incandescent bulbs and halogens because of the lower costs of these type of bulbs, despite LED bulbs lasting longer. Energy efficiency standards would mean that all light bulbs produced would be energy efficient.
Are environmental & climate change relevant in the ongoing US presidential campaign?
Climate change has been a recurring issue in discussions surrounding candidates who are vying for the office of president of the U.S. This past week, 10 candidates from the Democratic party participated in a 10-hour long forum on climate change where they put forward their proposals for tackling the crisis. All candidates emphasised the importance of dealing with climate change but stopped short of providing solutions on how to actively address the issue.
Bernie Sanders vowed to place checks upon the US fossil fuel industry, saying he was proposing “the largest, most comprehensive climate plan presented by any presidential candidate in the history of the United States”, while former vice-president Joe Biden claimed he would push other nations to address the issue of climate change first. “We should be organising the world, demanding change, we need a diplomat-in-chief,” said Biden.
Biden, who has one of the least comprehensive plans among all Democratic Party presidential candidates regarding climate change, was also confronted regarding his plans to attend a fundraiser hosted by the founder of a natural gas company. Biden stated plans to invest $1.7 trillion to fight climate change, while Elizabeth Warren proposed $10 trillion. Sanders, who has the most ambitious plans for tackling climate change among the candidates, stated that he would put forward $16.3 trillion to address the issue.
Anderson Cooper: “The Trump administration announced plans to overturn requirements on energy-saving lightbulbs. … Would you reinstate those requirements?”
— CNN (@CNN) September 5, 2019
According to polling results released by Yale University, climate change comes a close second after healthcare in priorities for the American voter. “Among all voting Americans, nearly seven in 10 are worried about climate change, the highest ever recorded level of concern. There are strong bipartisan majorities in favour of setting pollution limits on industry, businesses, cars and trucks,” reported The Guardian.