Trump Rolls Back Regulations on Energy-Saving Light Bulbs

The Trump administration said it will roll back requirements for more energy efficient light bulbs, a set of rules that could lead to increased greenhouse gas emissions that accelerate global warming

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What to Know

  • The decision will prevent new efficiency requirements from getting implemented in January
  • The standards applied to about half of the roughly 6 billion light bulbs used in the U.S.
  • They would have avoided millions of tons of carbon

The Trump administration on Wednesday announced that it will roll back requirements for more energy efficient light bulbs, a set of rules that could lead to increased green house gas emissions that accelerate global warming. 

The filing from the Energy Department would prevent new efficiency requirements from implementation on Jan. 1 under a previous law passed during President George W. Bush’s administration in 2007. That law phased out inefficient incandescent and halogen bulbs, and was passed with bipartisan support in Congress. 

The standards that were scheduled to take effect in January applied to about half of the roughly 6 billion light bulbs used in the U.S, and would have avoided millions of tons of carbon dioxide emissions into the atmosphere. 

Despite the initial support for the bill from both aisles, the issue turned contentious during the Obama administration as the more efficient light bulbs began to hit the market. Those include the LED bulbs that look more like the traditional pear-shaped incandescent bulbs, but use one-fifth the energy. 

Over the past decade, incandescent bulbs, which are the largely recognized glass orbs with glowing wire centers, have been rapidly replaced with more energy efficient alternatives in America’s fight against green house gas emissions. 

The Trump administration’s new rules will likely be met with pushback from environmental groups and consumers, and be challenged in court. Critics argue that if Trump’s reversal is finalized, it will create higher energy bills for consumers and more pollution. 

In contrast, manufacturers like the National Electric Manufacturer’s Association (NEMA) have pushed against the new standards that require consumers to use more efficient options, citing that they would risk jobs and consumer’s ability to choose. 

The bulbs at stake include decorative globes in bathrooms, candle-shaped lights, three-way lightbulbs and reflector bulbs. These four categories collectively account for about 2.7 billion light sockets, or almost half of conventional sockets in the U.S., according to the Natural Resources Defense Council. A new rule that will publish on Thursday will get rid of a previous standard that would have required adding these four categories to the energy-efficient group. 

The Energy Department said in the rule that light bulb standards that were expanded under President Barack Obama were done “in a manner that is not consistent with the best reading of the statute.” 

The Energy Department and White House did not immediately respond to CNBC’s request for comment. 

NEMA said in statement that it welcomed the administration’s new rule, saying it would define “the scope of general service lamps to be consistent with the intent of Congress when it enacted the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007.” The trade associate said that LED bulbs are selling well and Trump’s new rule “will not impact the market’s continuing, rapid adoption of energy-saving lighting in the next few years.” 

Jason Hartke, president of the Alliance to Save Energy, a coalition of business and environmental groups, said that “The Energy Department flat out got it wrong today.” 

“Instead of moving us forward, this rule will keep more energy-wasting bulbs on store shelves and saddle the average American household with about $100 in unnecessary energy costs every year,” he said. 

“Wasting energy with inefficient lightbulbs isn’t just costly for homes and businesses, it’s terrible for our climate.” 

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