South Carolina legislators made the case Wednesday to keep traditional incandescent light bulbs available to consumers by arguing they keep Rover warm in the dog house and cakes from grandkids coming out of Easy-Bake Ovens.
They're debating the Incandescent Light Bulb Freedom Act, a bill that aims to trump a 2007 federal energy standards law. That legislation has led manufacturers to phase out making most traditional 100-watt incandescent bulbs in 2012 and they'll phase out 75-, 60- and 40-watt bulbs in 2014.
While the House briefly discussed the measure, they delayed more discussion on the bill until later Wednesday or Thursday.
The state legislation would allow manufacturers to make the bulbs in Palmetto State, stamp them "Made in South Carolina" and sell them only in the state. Rep. Bill Sandifer, a Seneca Republican and bill co-sponsor, doesn't care for compact fluorescent bulbs, the most affordable alternative, and says the federal government doesn't have the right to tell people how they light their homes and businesses.
"These rights to have the kind of light bulbs we want and need are our rights. They are not given to the federal government," Sandifer said.
South Carolina has one incandescent light maker and Sandifer said the legislation will help that industry as well as encourage others to set up shop. "Although the bill was not intended to be an economic development bill, it is that," Sandifer said.
The rap on the traditional bulbs is tied largely to 90 percent of the energy they waste in heat instead of making light. But Rep. Mike Pitts, a Laurens Republican, said that's a virtue.
"Did you know that light bulbs that are going to be required by the federal government cannot be used in an Easy-Bake Oven?" Pitts asked. He said his granddaughter won't be able to make him cakes anymore if the state doesn't act to keep them traditional bulbs available.
"Did you also know there're a lot of people in rural areas of our state that still put a light bulb in their well house to keep it from freezing in the winter time or in their dog house to keep their dog from freezing?" Pitts asked.
South Carolina isn't alone in trying to trump the federal law. Arizona lawmakers tried the same thing a year ago, passing a bill that would have declared incandescent light bulbs manufactured entirely within the state exempt from federal regulation. But Republican Gov. Jan Brewer vetoed it. Texas, Georgia and Minnesota have also considered clinging to incandescent bulbs, but none has passed a law.
California, however, embraced the new federal regulations a year early.
David Jenkins, spokesman for Republicans for Environmental Protection, said the federal legislation is misunderstood. "The government is not actually 'phasing out' incandescent light bulbs in favor of fluorescent bulbs," Jenkins said. "The law is technology neutral; it merely establishes energy efficiency standards for bulbs -- much like the efficiency standards for appliances that were established during the Reagan Administration."
While people knock compact fluorescent bulbs, Jenkins said, there are alternatives, including halogen and LED bulbs. He expects the LED bulbs will ultimately win over consumers as prices come down.