The Biden Administration will implement a ban on incandescent light bulbs starting next week in favor of energy-efficient bulbs, following a yearslong bipartisan effort to phase out the bulbs after earlier regulations and standards were blocked by former President Donald Trump.
The Department of Energy approved new rules for light bulbs last year that will take effect on August 1, including a new minimum standard for light bulbs at 45 lumens—or brightness—per watt, an increase over the average 12 to 18 lumens per watt for incandescent bulbs.
Retailers will be prohibited from selling any bulbs—including incandescent bulbs—that don’t match the new standard, though households using any existing bulb that does not meet the standard will not be required to stop using them.
The decision was meant to conserve energy and “help consumers save on their energy bills,” as more energy-efficient bulbs—like LEDs—use at least 75% less energy and last up to 25 times longer than incandescent bulbs, according to the department.
An effort to phase out less efficient bulbs was initiated by former President George W. Bush, whose Energy Independence and Security Act in 2007 called for household light bulbs to have “about 25% greater efficiency,” though it did not outright ban incandescent bulbs, according to the Environmental Protection Agency.
Former President Barack Obama added two new regulations to the act in 2017, which would have effectively phased out incandescent bulbs and other specialty bulbs, like candle-shaped bulbs used in chandeliers, by January 2020, according to the EPA.
The Department of Energy later blocked the regulations during Trump’s presidency in 2019, after Trump—who said energy-efficient bulbs Americans were “being forced to use” made him “look orange”—advocated against them and other environmental regulations.
$3 billion. That’s how much the Department of Energy estimates Americans will save in total on utility bills by using energy-efficient bulbs for a full year.
Rep. Pat Fallon (R-Texas) told Politico a decision to phase out incandescent light bulbs “is just another example of the Biden Administration’s tidal wave of regulatory burdens crashing down on American families.” Rep. Scott Perry (R-Pa.) said last week the ban was part of Biden’s “regulatory assault” on home appliances.
Joe Vukovich, an advocate at the Natural Resources Defense Council, said the U.S. is “long overdue to phase out inefficient, old-fashioned light bulbs.” Charlie Harak, an attorney at the National Consumer Law Center, said a preference for energy-efficient bulbs would benefit households with “disproportionately higher energy burdens.”
An effort to phase out incandescent light bulbs comes amid concerns they contribute to climate change. The Department of Energy estimates about 5% of global carbon greenhouse gas emissions are attributed to lighting, while bulbs that are less energy-efficient—like incandescent bulbs—contribute more because they produce more heat. The new regulations are expected to cut carbon emissions by 222 million metric tons—an amount equivalent to emissions generated by 28 million homes in one year—over the next 30 years, according to the department.
An estimated 30% of U.S. households used incandescent or halogen incandescent light bulbs in 2020, according to the Department of Energy. Regulations on less efficient bulbs have faced opposition over the last two decades, as some Republicans argued the rules violated “personal freedom,” while others, including former Sen. John Warner (R-Va.), argued using energy-efficient bulbs was more cost-efficient. Jim Presswood, energy policy director for the Natural Resources Defense Council, said in a 2011 statement that “consumers, the economy and the environment” would “suffer” if the regulations were not approved.
While Everyone Was Yelling About Gas Stoves, The Incandescent Light Bulb Went Away (Politico)