- The Washington Times - Wednesday, January 5, 2011

The cost of illuminating your home is about to go up significantly. Most Americans take for granted that when they flip a switch, darkness immediately gives way to a warm, natural light. That’s no longer possible in California, where a regulation that took effect Jan. 1 only allows the sale of harsh, cold compact fluorescents above a certain wattage. Unless the new Congress takes action, the same rules will apply to the rest of the country, beginning next year.

The prohibition on buying real light bulbs follows from the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007, signed into law by then-President George W. Bush. The measure gave bureaucratic zealots in the Golden State permission to embark on their confiscatory policy a year early. Of course, in true Orwellian fashion, the California Energy Commission strongly denies it’s doing anything to prohibit consumers from buying the type of bulbs they prefer. “You can still buy any type of light bulb you like, the only difference is that the new bulbs will use less energy and cost less money to operate,” the commission’s website explains. Left unsaid is that it’s a crime to sell newly manufactured cheap bulbs that produce a pleasing, natural light of 100 watts or more.

With more than a century to perfect Thomas Edison’s great invention, manufacturers sell the brilliant 60-watt bulb for as little as 29 cents. The less-effective squiggly versions run $2 to $5 each, with prices for higher wattages and three-way configurations sometimes exceeding $10 each.

Congressional busybodies don’t care about the impact on consumers. They want to be just like the Europeans who began bulb banning in 2009. The final phase will be complete in September after the popular 60-watt incandescent is declared contraband. As London’s Daily Mail reported, this marketplace manipulation will bring a predictable outcome: The cost of government-mandated compact fluorescent fixtures is about to triple. Absent competition from traditional lighting, manufacturers won’t need to discount the deadly, mercury-filled substitutes in order to attract buyers. Companies will no longer receive credit from Brussels for subsidizing the cost of the bulbs. As a result, their price will rise.

The European carbon-dioxide offset rules are so absurd that many firms last year mailed fluorescent light bulbs to customers who didn’t necessarily want them simply to meet “energy saving” targets. On Nov. 27, the energy company Npower dropped 12 million squiggly light bulbs in the post to British customers, saving the firm from a potential $62 million fine.

It didn’t matter that no proof existed that the bulbs were ever actually used. Turning on a dim, harsh fluorescent light demonstrates “concern” for the environment. Forcing everyone to do the same shows an even higher degree of purported enlightenment on the part of lawmakers. Consumers are forced to pay this price as a “carbon” offering to Mother Earth in the hopes that she will favor us with colder weather. We can expect much of the absurdity across the Atlantic to happen here, unless this Congress returns to Americans the freedom to choose a real light bulb.