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House Republicans: Down with curly light bulbs

House Republicans: Down with curly light bulbs

How many U.S. government bureaucrats does it take to screw in a light bulb? A lot of House Republicans think the answer should be "none." They say the government should just stay out of it.
To them, those new, curly fluorescent light bulbs are the last straw, another example of an overreaching government that is forcing Americans to buy health insurance, prodding them to get more fuel-efficient cars and sticking its nose into too many places it doesn't belong.
For most Democrats, it is an exasperating debate that, just like the old incandescent bulbs being crowded out of the market, produces more heat than light.
Republicans in control of the House moved toward a vote late Tuesday on legislation that would seek to overturn light bulb energy-efficiency standards and keep the marketplace clear for the cheap, energy-wasting bulbs that have changed little since Thomas Edison invented them in 1879.
The standards in question do not specifically ban the old bulbs but require a higher level of efficiency than the classics can produce, essentially nudging them off store shelves over the next few years. Four of Edison's descendants said the great inventor would be mortified to see politicians trying to get the nation to hang on to an outdated technology when better bulbs are available.
The standards have not been particularly contentious before now. They were crafted in 2007 with Republican participation and signed into law by President George W. Bush. People seem to like the new choices and the energy savings they bring, polling finds.
But now they have become a symbol of a much larger divide in Washington over the size and reach of government itself. The new bulbs suggest to some conservatives that big government is running amok.
"Now the government wants to tell consumers what type of light bulb they use to read, cook, watch television or light their garage," said Rep. Michael Burgess, a Republican.
"I'm not opposed to the squiggly tailed CFLs," said Rep. Joe Barton, a Republican and the driving force behind the effort to save the old incandescents and sponsor of the bill to overturn the standards. But making the old bulbs go away "seems to me to be overkill by the federal government."
The Obama administration, which opposes Barton's bill, says the lighting standards that are being phased in will save nearly $6 billion in 2015 alone. The Energy Department says upgrading 15 inefficient incandescent bulbs in a home could save a homeowner $50 a year. Lighting accounts for about 10 percent of home electricity use.
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Associated Press writer Dina Cappiello contributed to this report.