Federal Light Bulb Ban Creates Jobs in China

by Lee Hernly

A federal law banning ordinary incandescent light bulbs has already had a negative effect on the American economy — GE has closed its last major bulb producing factory in the United States, creating job opportunities in China.

Legislation enacted in 2007 orders the phase-out of incandescent light bulbs beginning with the 100-watt bulb in 2012 and ending with the 40-watt light in 2014. These bulbs cannot meet efficiency requirements dictated by law.

Compact fluorescent lights (CFLs) are the least expensive alternative. But the manufacture of CFLs is “labor intensive and too expensive to be done at U.S. wage rates,” according to a report from The Heartland Institute, which estimates that domestically produced CFLs would be 50 percent more expensive than bulbs manufactured in China.

So instead of retrofitting its plant in Winchester, Va., to produce CFLs, GE closed the plant in September and laid off 200 workers.

CFLs are already being manufactured in China, and increasing American demand will no doubt create new jobs there.

While CFLs use about 75 percent less energy than incandescent bulbs and last far longer, they cost significantly more, take longer to turn on, can flicker, and contain small amounts of highly toxic mercury, which creates problems for users when they break or need to be disposed of after they burn out.

Heritage recently posted about how the ban is just another attack on consumers by the Federal Government:

The attack on the incandescent bulb is just one item in a laundry list of government regulations and mandates attempting to promote conservation. Energy efficiency standards already exist for vehicles, appliances, and buildings, and recently introduced legislation calls on the Secretary of Energy to identify additional appliances and equipment that “have significant national energy savings potential” to be included for future performance standard mandates.

All of these mandates have unintended consequences that their advocates fail to foresee, including increased energy use. If consumers want a product, the market is capable of providing it.

When the government picks winners and losers, it reduces the incentive for companies to innovate and increases the incentive for companies to lobby the government for special handouts and protections. When the government creates specific mandates and regulations, it purposely narrows the path businesses can take. These policies distort normal market forces and encourage government dependence.

Three Republican members of Congress — Joe Barton, Marsha Blackburn and Michael Burgess — have introduced a bill that would repeal the ban on the incandescent bulb.

As the three said in an article on The Daily Caller:

“The unanticipated consequence of the ’07 act — layoffs in the middle of a desperate recession — is what sometimes happens when politicians think they know better than consumers and workers.”

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