- The Washington Times - Thursday, July 21, 2011

Liberals want to take away your light bulbs, pickup trucks and family sedans, but they aren’t honest enough to admit it. On the House floor last week, Democrats insisted regulations prohibiting the sale of cheap sources of illumination beginning in January are about increasing consumer choice. Likewise, the Obama administration’s forthcoming 56-mile-per-gallon fuel-efficiency mandate for automakers is supposedly a boon for consumers.

“I continue to hear my colleagues promote the fantasy that government has banned the incandescent light bulb,” said Rep. Jason Altmire, Pennsylvania Democrat. “They think if they say it over and over again that it will be true. But it’s not true.” Proponents of the bulb ban also claim misleading efficiency increases. There’s a good reason to be skeptical; legislative acts don’t create engineering breakthroughs. The sole purpose of the law signed by President George W. Bush was to eliminate the sale of 25-cent light bulbs because the greens want to force everyone to switch to fluorescent lighting.

It is true that - for now - our regulatory masters will allow the purchase of a 72-watt halogen bulb at a stiff price premium. While it is a form of incandescent, it is no substitute for Edison’s invention because it cannot, under the rules, match the output of the prohibited 120-watt and 150-watt bulbs often used to brighten large rooms. Moreover, halogens are certain to be banned in the next round of rulemaking to ensure politically correct curlicue bulbs are the only realistic choice remaining.

Failure to obey these dictates brings the wrath of the Department of Energy’s Conservation Standards Enforcement division. It has recently threatened companies like Delta Faucet, Hudson Reed, LG, Maytag, Target Corporation and Westinghouse for attempting to deliver products that consumers desired. These items did not catch on fire nor were they filled with dangerous lead or mercury - they simply functioned too well.

The bureaucracy doesn’t care about functionality. It wants to wipe out inventions it has long hated, such as the internal-combustion engine. That’s why the latest proposals to raise Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) requirements are set at unattainable levels. Currently, manufacturers achieve an average rating of 30.3, but a few manufacturers like Ferrari score just 16.2. By increasing noncompliance penalties, it simply won’t be feasible to make a fun car even in low volumes. Only boring hybrids and impractical electric cars will remain.

Even these yawn-mobiles would cost an extra $900 to $1,940 more per vehicle, and fewer will be able to afford them. At worst, the Auto Alliance estimates the CAFE hike will kill off 2.4 million vehicle sales at a cost of 212,400 jobs. That’s the left’s idea of “choice.”

George Orwell warned of such linguistic tricks, which he called “newspeak.” He saw socialists abusing language to change the public’s thought patterns. Such is the case when pulling cheap light bulbs off the shelf isn’t a ban and prohibiting the sale of large pickup trucks becomes a choice. As debt-ceiling negotiations proceed and members of Congress look for places to cut spending, they ought to zero out the “standards” divisions at the Energy Department and Environmental Protection Agency.

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