House Vote to Lift Light Bulb Restrictions

Rep. Burgess on energy debate


CHRIS COTTER, GUEST HOST: You see, you’re looking live on Capitol Hill right now, where the House is about to vote to repeal a piece of the 2007 energy bill, the part that required incandescent light bulbs to be more energy-efficient.

Critics on the left calling the repeal dim-witted.

My next guest co-sponsoring the move, Republican Congressman Michael Burgess of Texas.

Congressman, what is it about the original energy bill passed back in 2007 that bothers you so much?

REP. MICHAEL BURGESS, R-TEXAS: Well, Chris, if -- if we could repeal the entirety of that energy bill, I think the country would be -- would be better for it.

Four years ago, when this came through subcommittee and full committee, I fought against these light bulb standards. I understood at the time that the -- the direction we were going was – was not correct. And then you were left with the uncomfortable spectacle of the federal government now dictating what kind of wavelength light you have in your home in -- at night.

Look, I work in a federal building all day long. I understand that the federal government gets to dictate what type of wavelength light I use to read bills and amendments. But when I go home at night, the federal government does not have the right to dictate to me the -- the wavelength of light that I use to read my newspaper.

COTTER: These light bulbs, is it the cost of light bulbs? Is it the fact that they’re dangerous? What is it that is most disturbing about them? Or is it just the way the light shines?

BURGESS: All of the above. And, probably, what’s most important is, again, the federal government had no business making this type of regulation.

Once again, congress wades into an area where it doesn’t belong, picking winners and losers in the light bulb manufacturing process. And as a consequence, at a time we should be preserving jobs, we’re losing jobs - - 100 or so people that lost their jobs last September and October from one of the light -- the last light manufacturing plants to close down here on the East Coast.

Why did that have to happen? Those jobs actually were sent to China to manufacture these little compact fluorescent things that, oh, by the way, have five milligrams of mercury. When we had our subcommittee hearings four years ago, the Democrats were telling us that five milligrams of mercury in a landfill was not going to be that big of a deal.

But the fact of the matter is, the EPA has -- has very precise directions what you do in your home if one of these things explodes.


Are these light bulbs...


COTTER: ... are they getting better, though? Because my understanding is -- and, again, you -- you hear from different sides -- but that the incandescent bulbs, the newer ones, are -- actually, the lighting is much better on those. They’re much more energy-efficient. They’re making a lot of progress year over year from the squiggly LED bulbs that emit that horrible white light.

BURGESS: Well, and -- and here’s the deal. The technology is going to change.

But it was wrong for the United States government to dictate the winners and losers. I mean, this was 2007. And we said as, of January 1, 2012, here’s what you’re going to have to do. Well, no one knew what the technology would be in five years. And Congress just made an assumption on where that technology would be.

And guess what? We were wrong. And as a consequence, people are going to suffer. They’re losing their jobs and they are losing their choice in the marketplace. Let the marketplace make these decisions. People are rational. They’ll behave the right way. They don’t need the government telling them what kind of light to buy.

And after all, who wants to sit there with all the romance of a Soviet stairwell when you’re reading by your lamp at home?


COTTER: Well, Congressman Burgess, this probably stands a better chance of passing, this repeal, in the House than it does in the Senate. Am I correct on that?

BURGESS: Likely so. But let’s pass it in the House and embarrass the Senate and maybe they’ll hear from their constituents, as I have heard from mine.

I’ve been front and center against this thing from day one, but I still get a lot of calls in my office. Why don’t you do something about this? Well, fortunately, today, we’re getting that chance to try to even that score. If we can go after the ethanol mandate next, I’m happy to do that as well.

COTTER: All right, debate on this bill -- it’s the BULB bill, by the way -- the repeal, starts at 5:30, voting expected at 6:30.

Congressman Burgess, thank you so much for joining us today.

BURGESS: Thank you, Chris.

COTTER: All right.

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