Biden blocks sales of inefficient lightbulbs, reversing Trump-era policy

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U.S. President Joe Biden delivers remarks about climate change and protecting national forests on Earth Day at Seward Park in Seattle, Washington, April 22, 2022.
Jonathan Ernst | Reuters

The Biden administration on Tuesday announced new energy efficiency regulations that will phase out old-fashioned incandescent lightbulbs, a move that will drive down electricity use and curb greenhouse gas emissions from the country’s power sector.

The Energy Department’s rules, which reverse a Trump administration policy, will ban the sale of light bulbs that produce less than 45 lumens per watt and raise energy efficiency standards for various types of general service lamps.

The new standards will save consumers $3 billion each year in utility costs, the department said. The rules could also prevent 222 million tons of planet-warming carbon pollution from being emitted over the next 30 years. That’s about as much as 48 million vehicles emit in a year.

Incandescent bulbs, which are the widely recognized glass orbs with glowing wire centers, have been increasingly replaced with more energy-efficient alternatives in recent years. More climate-friendly alternatives include LED bulbs, which look like the traditional pear-shaped incandescent bulbs, but use one-fifth the energy.

The administration’s new rules will eventually phase out most incandescent and halogen bulbs on the market.

“By raising energy efficiency standards for lightbulbs, we’re putting $3 billion back in the pockets of American consumers and substantially reducing domestic carbon emissions,” Secretary of Energy Jennifer M. Granholm said in a statement.

“The lighting industry is already embracing more energy-efficient products, and this measure will accelerate progress to deliver the best products to American consumers and build a better and brighter future,” Granholm said.

Former President Donald Trump in 2019 rolled back requirements for more energy-efficient lightbulbs, arguing that the standards were not economically justified. The decision was supported by industry groups who argued that standards requiring consumers to use more efficient options would risk jobs and consumers’ ability to choose.

Joe Vukovich, an energy efficiency advocate at the Natural Resources Defense Council, said the announcement of new light bulb efficiency standards is “brilliant news” for consumers and the environment.

“We are long overdue to phase out inefficient old-fashioned light bulbs as this progress was illegally delayed by the Trump administration for more than two years,” Vukovich said in a statement.

The new efficiency standard will become effective 75 days after publication in the Federal Register. However, the Energy Department said it will allow companies to import noncompliant bulbs until January 2023 and allow retailers to continue selling them until July 2023.

“LEDs have become so inexpensive that there’s no good reason for manufacturers to keep selling 19th-century technology that just isn’t very good at turning electrical energy into light,” Steven Nadel, executive director of the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy, said in a statement.

“These standards will finally phase out energy-wasting bulbs across the country,” Nadel said.

The Biden administration has committed to achieving a net-zero emissions electricity sector by 2030, and plans to complete 100 energy-efficiency actions this year.

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