Bachmann is pro-choice on bulbs

| 21 Comments | No TrackBacks

WASHINGTON, Mar 26, 2008 (Star Tribune - McClatchy-Tribune Information Services via COMTEX)


How many members of Congress does it take to change a light bulb? Americans may soon find out, courtesy of a contrarian piece of legislation introduced this month by Rep. Michele Bachmann of Minnesota.

Titled the "Light Bulb Freedom of Choice Act," the bill seeks to repeal the nationwide phase-out of conventional light bulbs, the kind that have been used for more than a century -- pretty much since the invention of the incandescent light bulb.

Bachmann, a first-term Republican, is challenging the nation's embrace of energy-efficient compact fluorescent lights, saying the government has no business telling consumers what kind of light bulbs they can buy.

"This is an issue of science over fads and fashions," Bachmann said in an interview Tuesday.

"Congress tends to jump on whatever the current buzz is in the 24-hour news cycle, " Bachmann said.

Her bill, the first challenge of its kind, raises safety questions about the small amounts of mercury in fluorescent lights. It also lands her squarely in the middle of the debate over global warming. In recent remarks to a gathering of Sherburne County Republicans -- reported in the West Sherburne Tribune -- Bachmann called any human connection to global warming "voodoo, nonsense, hokum, a hoax."

"By 2012, incandescent light bulbs will be no more," Bachmann said. "Fluorescent bulbs are more polluting because of their mercury content. We are working on a light bulb bill. If the Democrats can hose up a light bulb, don't trust them with the country."

The electrical and manufacturing industries, in a rare alliance with environmentalists, portray Bachmann's mercury concerns as overblown. They argue that fluorescent lights actually reduce mercury emissions in the long run. That's because the new bulbs use so much less electricity, much of which is produced by burning coal, which emits greenhouse gases and mercury.

"That's not just the industry talking," said Mark Kohorst of the National Electrical Manufacturers Association. "That's an accepted aspect of these products, and that's why they've been promoted so heavily."

Whatever one's views on global warming, Kohorst said, the energy savings of fluorescent lights are real. "The lamp thing has merit," he said. "Unfortunately, [Bachmann] has lumped it in with this whole conspiracy thing."

Environmentalists are more emphatic in downplaying the mercury hazards of fluorescent bulbs, which they say are minimal.

"There is 200 times more mercury in each filling in Congresswoman Bachmann's teeth than there is in a compact fluorescent light bulb," said Julia Bovey, a spokeswoman for the Natural Resources Defense Council.

The federal government is also on board, with Congress' last energy bill, signed by President Bush in December, having mandated a phase-in to energy-saving bulbs starting in 2012.

But in a letter to congressional colleagues earlier this month, Bachmann asked for support of her legislation to reverse that mandate, unless a comptroller general report shows clear economic, health and environmental benefits from the switchover to fluorescent lights.

Her letter says that the energy bill "forces consumers and businesses to use only light bulbs chosen for them by the government" and that further study "is simple due diligence."

Mercury disposal an issue

The mercury content of fluorescent light bulbs has long been a concern of federal and state regulators. Minnesota is one of a handful of states that ban the disposal of fluorescent lights as general waste, and Xcel Energy, the state's biggest utility, actively reimburses many customers for recycling them.

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA) outline a series of steps that homeowners should take to clean up broken fluorescent lights: Open windows, use rubber gloves, dispose of all material in sealed bags and remove it to a hazardous waste facility.

"It's almost as if you have to call the haz-mat team out to your home," Bachmann said.

Environmentalists argue that most of the steps are the same as cleanup from any broken glass accident, except for the special disposal requirements.

Industry experts say the amount of mercury in new compact fluorescent lights -- about 5 milligrams, on average -- is small but significant enough to warrant common-sense safety precautions and consumer recycling efforts to keep it out of landfills.

"There are minuscule amounts of mercury, but it's a hazardous waste, and we want to take it seriously," said Kim Sherman, product portfolio manager at Xcel Energy.

MPCA spokesman Sam Brungardt said the use of compact fluorescent lights, which use one-fourth the energy of regular bulbs, should certainly be encouraged. If new legislation is needed, he said, it should be to encourage consumers to recycle. "You have to make it easy to do this," he said.

Growing market

With or without the help of Congress, the market for compact fluorescent lights is growing. They are now more than 20 percent of the consumer market in the United States, up from 1 percent in 2001, according to Steve Rosenstock of the Edison Electric Institute.

"These bulbs use significantly less energy, so consumers can save lots of money by switching over," said Jason Mathers of the Environmental Defense Fund.

Fluorescent bulbs, however, cost several dollars more than regular household light bulbs, a factor that Congress failed to take into account when it passed its new mandate, Bachmann said.

For her, changing a light bulb should remain a matter of personal freedom.

"I was just outraged that Congress would want to substitute its judgment for the judgment of the American people," she said. "It struck me as a massive Big Brother intrusion into our homes and our lives."

No TrackBacks

TrackBack URL:


Thanks for spreading the news. And, by the way, I’m pro-choice (H.R. 5616)

Thanks for posting this article. I'm decidedly frustrated with struggling to search out germane and sound commentary on this matter. Everybody now goes to the very far extremes to either drive home their viewpoint that either: everyone else in the planet is wrong, or two that everyone but them does not really understand the situation. Many thanks for your concise, relevant insight.

really enlightening post, I will be returning back to this site now and again to see more material of this quality!! by the way does anybody know where i can

I lately came across your blog and have been reading along. I thought I would leave my first remark. I don’t know what to say except that I have relished reading. Solid blog. I will keep visiting this blog very often.

Hello there, cheers for the great blog, a really great opening to the 2010, keep up the fantastic work, Cheryl.

Hello, cheers for this fantastic post, a truly great start to the new year, keep up the great work, Cheryl.

Cool, there is actually some good points on here some of my associates may find this useful, will send a link, thanks.

Nice one, there is actually some great points on here some of my readers just might find this relevant, will send them a link, many thanks.

Let me start by saying great webpage. Im not sure if it has been talked about, however when using Chrome I can never get the whole page to load without refreshing many times. Could just be my laptop. Enjoy!

Nice post. Keep up the great work

Nette Idee und außerdem auch gut gelungene Seite.

It looks like you've pulled together a fairly sizeable following now. I'm pleased to see it.

Hey - nice blog, just looking around some websites, seems a really nice platform you are using. I'm currently using Wordpress for a few of my sites but looking to change one of them over to a platform similar to yours as a trial run.

this post is really helpful. thanks a lot

Your post piqued my interest. Please give us a more indepth post if you get a chance.

Fantastic site and great content. Thanks for the very informative and timely content. Please keep up the quality. Thanks...

Excellent new material as usual, thanks!

Very nice post. Do you accept guest writers?

Hi just thought i'd tell you something. This really is the second time now i've landed on your blog within the last four days hunting for totally unrelated points. Spooky or what?

Burberry, a relatively young brand in the field of fashion, never short of innovation and novelty. It is well known for his iconic Burberry check scheme, which is manifested in almost all areas of fashion. However, this skin and small chain Designer Replicas Handbagscompletely different style of their agreement.

I wish I would have read your post. But unfortunately the code is messed up on my end. Is it just me? I can barely see the box for leaving comments. You may want to give it a check...

Leave a comment

December 2011

Sun Mon Tue Wed Thu Fri Sat
        1 2 3
4 5 6 7 8 9 10
11 12 13 14 15 16 17
18 19 20 21 22 23 24
25 26 27 28 29 30 31

Powered by Movable Type 5.031

About this Entry

This page contains a single entry by Elmer published on March 27, 2008 12:42 PM.

Climate Facts To Warm To was the previous entry in this blog.

Gore Calls Skeptics Flat Earthers is the next entry in this blog.

Find recent content on the main index or look in the archives to find all content.