Update: Lights Out For Thompson’s Bulb Amendment

By: Chris Bowman, Staff Writer 

As the budget debate trudges on inside the Beltway, lawmakers are arguing over another, and less potentially-apocalyptic (or at least, the rhetoric surrounding the it) issue: light bulbs.

Rep. Glenn Thompson (R-PA) offered an amendment to the 2012 legislative appropriations bill that would limit funding for energy-efficient compact fluorescent light (CFL) bulbs within the U.S. Capitol facilities failed in the House by a 130-283 vote.

Rep. Thompson stressed that the older bulbs provide American jobs and the potential danger of a mercury bulb breaking in his failed assault against the CFL bulbs. More American companies make Halogen bulbs, Thompson claimed.

He also warned that if a single CFL bulb broke, legislators would have to “evacuate” the chamber, whereas if a less energy-conscious incandescent bulb broke, “we get the broom.”

Representative Mike Honda (D-CA) countered this claim, explaining that “There has been no proof that these light bulbs expose people to unhealthy levels of mercury.” He continued, claiming that “this scare tactic is trying to impose fear and is a result of an overblown media report that exaggerated the potential danger.”

The EPA does recommend clearing an area where a CFL bulb breaks, though CFL bulbs contain only 1/100 of the mercury typically found in old-fashioned thermometers and most experts agree that these pose a minimal threat.

In general, the Republican party has attacked a 2007 law mandating energy-efficient bulbs. First, the GOP brought a measure to the floor, the Bulb Act, that would have reined in the original regulation mandating Americans use energy-efficient bulbs, but, that failed because of the way in which the Republicans brought the measure to the floor. Rep. Thompson voted against the first measure. Then, they successfully offered an amendment to the Energy and Water Appropriations bill that would block funding to enforce the regulation. Finally, Rep. Thompson offered his amendment to the Legislative Branch Appropriations legislation. In particular, Rep. Thompson’s argument has been a jobs argument, that the new energy-efficient bulbs are not made by American workers, he wants to see the United States promoting American jobs, not just energy efficiency.

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