Yes, They Really Are That Dumb

So, despite the withering sprays of snark dispensed by both John and myself, the GOPers in the House went off and advanced their defense of crab-bucket environmental destruction.

Yup, the liberty train rolled into town today in the form of a voice vote in the House to block funding for the enforcement of the formerly bipartisan, Bush-signed, light bulb efficiency standards passed in 2007.

Money quote:

Representative Michael Burgess, Republican of Texas, offered the measure as an amendment to a 2012 energy and water spending bill.


“The federal government has no right to tell me or any other citizen what type of light bulb to use at home,” Mr. Burgess said Friday on the House floor. “Consumers want the 100-watt light bulb, and some consumers need the 100-watt light bulb.”

I’ll get back to the GOP in a moment, but to digress, I could wish for just a bit more meticulousness from the Newspaper of Record.

In his report today, reporter Sean Collins Walsh writes

Although the regulations do not specify what types of bulbs are allowed, the standards would have the effect of eliminating the traditional 100-watt incandescent bulb by Jan. 1, 2012.

But just three days ago, Walsh wrote this:

When Congress acted in 2007, many people assumed the incandescent bulb was on its way out. But electric companies have since invested in new technologies that increase bulb efficiency.

Adding that:

Many industry groups, including the National Electrical Manufacturers Association and General Electric, have come out in opposition to the repeal.

Walsh notes in the earlier piece that Republicans contend that despite any technological advances the law in effect bans incandenscent bulbs — but in today’s dispatch he simply states that as a fact.

So, (a) really?  Actual data, or reporting from the companies involved would help….

…. which leads to (b): What happened to all that R & Danyway — did it evaporate between Tuesday and now?…which takes us to the final question:

(c) Iz anyone still copy-editing over there at the Great Grey Lady (formerly of) 43rd St.?

But all this is secondary to the core stupidity.  Once again, the Republicans would rather weaken our energy security, and hence our national security, with all that that implies for our men and women in harm’s way, rather than screw in a (new) lightbulb.

To heck with it, I say. Let’s get rid of constraints on choice in wiring.  Who needs circuit breakers — or sheathing for that matter!  Give me my cloth wrapped wires, and all those knobs and tubes dammit,and what’s more, bare wire tips and alligator clips make the whole damn thing so much more flexible.  Right.  Right?

We are governed  by feral children.

Image:  Géza Faragó, Poster for Tungsram Light Bulbs, 1910

73 replies
  1. 1
    FlipYrWhig says:

    Customers demand lead! And asbestos!

  2. 2
    SiubhanDuinne says:

    Fuck it all. Let’s just go back to rubbing sticks together.

  3. 3
    piratedan says:

    damn you big government! stop trying to protect me from myself! Next thing you know, they’ll start mandating helmets for motorcyclists and seat belts for kids!

  4. 4
    JPL says:

    Thomas Edison would be so proud.

  5. 5
    iriedc says:

    Yes, they really are that dumb dim.

  6. 6
    Tom Levenson says:

    At iredc @ 5.

    Well, yeah.

  7. 7
    Villago Delenda Est says:

    damn you big government! stop trying to protect me from myself! Next thing you know, they’ll start mandating helmets for motorcyclists and seat belts for kids!

    Oh, it’s much more serious than THAT.

    The big government will find a way that will make computers so small you can have one on your lap, and then make it so they can talk to each other over phone lines!

    Mark my words, big government will do that, and make your life a living heck in the process!

  8. 8

    This reminds me of the great toilet conspiracy. Fred Barnes had an incredibly stupid rant on this. I replaced both of the toilets in my house a few years ago and it payed for itself in less than a year through lower water and sewer bills. The spiral light bulbs also pay for themselves.
    I raised two teenage sons and during those teen years they objected to anyone telling them what to do. Conservatives/Libertarians are teenagers!

  9. 9
    danimal says:

    Snark fails me.


  10. 10
    Anne Laurie says:

    Thank you for fighting the good fight, Tom. And also, for an awesome image — I love art noveau!

  11. 11
    Dennis SGMM says:

    Maybe it has something to do with how many Republicans it takes to screw in a lightbulb.

  12. 12
    techno says:

    You know, when the original legislation was passed, I was expecting some confusion from those too dim to buy the right bulbs for circuits with dimmers, etc. I knew there were folks who were going to be confused by the fact that light could be bought by temperature ratings.

    But never. In my darkest moments. Did I expect organized political resistance to something so commonsensical. What is the matter with these people?!!

    There are times when I hear folks claiming the USA could become as energy-efficient as Europe without much problem. (The low-hanging fruit.) After all, they have shown it can be done–“all” we would have to do is copy those things that have worked best.

    Yeah? We can’t even get something as simple as lightbulb replacement right. Imagine doing district heating, rail links, and all the other much harder stuff we would have to do to merely catch up with Europe in energy efficiency.

    We. Are. Doomed!

  13. 13
    SiubhanDuinne says:

    Tom: As always, love the choice of art. That cat gazes ceilingward as though there’s a laser pointer waiting to be attacked.

  14. 14
    BD of MN says:


    Customers demand lead! And asbestos!

    you forgot glass thermometers with real mercury… and Fen-Phen!

  15. 15
    rob! says:

    This is an actual response from a GOP “friend” of mine when I wrote about this on my FB page:

    FWIW, I’ll never have a mercury light bulb in my house. I appreciate the few Republicans who had the courage to stand up for my right the choose the bulb I want. They weren’t trying to overturn the entire law…just the part making it illegal to sell most incandescent light bulbs in the US.

    “Stand up for my right”? Sweet Jesus, these GOPers see their rights being limited at every turn, 24/7.

  16. 16
    scav says:

    GOP: Fighting the Good Fight for the Dark Ages.

  17. 17

    CFLs are being sold fraudulently. They don’t last anything close to 7 years. I’m getting about the same lifetime as a double life incandescent – or less in one fixture.

    Orthogonal to your point, Tom, but something that needs to be solved.

  18. 18
    Tom Levenson says:

    Hey LL @ 17 — we’ve had great results w. our CFLs — every incandescent taht goes blooey gets replaced by same; haven’t replaced any of the latter yet, in a five year run.

    Like the man said about his bud’s new computer: “It must be you: that machine is user friendly.” ;)

    You well? Around? Get together?

  19. 19
    iriedc says:

    Next up: votes on the legislation they’ve drafted that zaps funding for anything that has “climate change” or “greenhouse gas”in the title. This is just the warm up, I’m afraid.

  20. 20
    Arclite says:

    In Japan, there’s a table with a blanket built into the rim with a lightbulb underneath in the center of the table. This is called a kotatsu. Usually you put in a 60 watt incandescent, turn it on, and sit under the blanket. The bulb heats the inside of the table under the blanket, and you can stay nice and toasty for 60 watts. Very efficient, unfortuntately, a 15 watt CF won’t put out enough heat.

  21. 21
    Martin says:

    Well, to be honest, this is the wrong way to go about it. It still helps, but barely.

    The nation needs to push out an energy policy that learns from CA.

    They can’t do it directly, because that’s a state issue, but they can tie certain state funding to implementation of comparable policies.

  22. 22
    Dennis SGMM says:


    I’ve been thinking that but I’ve been afraid to even voice it aloud. Anything that increases energy efficiency may soon be subject to the same resistance as anything that raises revenue. Once anything gets on to the GOP’s list of faith-based opposition there is no reasoned discussion of it becomes impossible.

  23. 23

    lovable liberal
    There are some bad CFL’s out there but it’s often a case of you get what you pay for. I bought some cheap ones and they didn’t last as long as I would like but I have found when I pay a little more I get my moneys worth. One of the first ones I bought which gets a lot of use is still working ten years later.

  24. 24
    FlipYrWhig says:

    @ BD: Also, freon! And aerosols! Customers demand Final Net classic! And lawn darts!

  25. 25
    Tom Levenson says:

    Martin @21. Yup; lightbulb efficiency is small potatoes — not nothing, but not enough…but the point is that if we can’t even do this, well, hell.

    Also — nice to see that WaPo article say such nice things about an old friend of a couple of members of my family, Arthur Rosenfeld. He’s been a fighter in the trenches for a long time.

  26. 26
    Martin says:

    Very efficient, unfortuntately, a 15 watt CF won’t put out enough heat.

    Actually, since you don’t need the light, you’d be better off with a dedicated heating coil than the light bulb. Safer too since you don’t have the glass and risk of breaking it. Certainly they have heating coils there designed to fit a standard incandescent socket.

  27. 27
    Davis X. Machina says:

    I recommend whale oil.

    Because you can’t be sure that, even in your incandescent, King James Version bulbs, the electricity itself doesn’t come from some goddamn windmill.

  28. 28
    gastropoda says:

    What I cannot understand is why they did something to hurt both business — light bulb manufacturers are already invested in making new bulbs to meet the standards approved under GWBush — and consumers, who will save big time under the regulations. I guess screwing the environment takes precedence over helping what you would think are their core groups. Thanks, McCain, for letting the loons out.

  29. 29
    Martin says:

    but the point is that if we can’t even do this, well, hell.

    Ah, but HOW you do things matters. Create a marketplace where the energy producers decide, rather than a flat-out ban, and a lot more people will go for it – and go for a better system. If nothing else, tell them that Reagan signed the CA energy policy. That should end it there.

  30. 30
    Hypnos says:

    In moments like this I almost wish some eco-terrorist realized all you really need to do is blow up Cushing, Oklahoma.

    You don’t like energy efficiency? We’ll give you energy efficiency, the hard way.

  31. 31
    scav says:

    Must be one of those clowns that will take up and put to a vote some sort of resolution forbidding manatees from owning and flying black helicopters because the base is worried about those too. Hell, we’d probably have co-sponsors.

  32. 32
    iriedc says:

    @Dennis SGMM
    you might as well start talking, or even shouting, about it because they are already doing it. And they’ve caught on to scientists and others who have started talking about “climate adaptation” in their attempts to avoid the nutcasery, and they are taking a hatchet to that too.
    Dang, I should started drinking BEFORE commenting on this post…

  33. 33

    This post needs the “Bring on the Brawndo!” category.

  34. 34
    someone says:

    lovable liberal

    No offense intended but short lifetime CFL bulbs are often the result of user error in my experience. Most of my bulbs are going on 10 years now, I know because it was end of 2001 that I moved and bought all new CFL bulbs. I think only 1 died after about 7 years. Anyway, the plural of anecdote is not data. Get your bulbs from reputable companies with a warranty.

  35. 35
    Zam says:

    Do conservatives go to the stores and demand a fucking old school Nintendo as well? Seriously what the fuck do they have about new and better things?

  36. 36
    evinfuilt says:

    @Gastropoda 28

    Why? Because dems are for it, that’s why. Bipartisan is the true evil for the tea party

  37. 37

    @Zam: No, they’re more about things like buying the most fuel-inefficient vehicle they can buy, because they think they’re sticking it to the “libtards”, when, of course, they’re actually sticking it to themselves.

  38. 38
    Martin says:

    This post needs the “Bring on the Brawndo!” category.

    Ooh! We should tell them that compact fluorescents have electrolytes! Problem solved!

  39. 39
    Ash Can says:

    This is the same kind of stunt as Reagan taking the solar panels off the White House when he moved in, albeit on a much larger scale. Bow down to big-energy bosses, embrace wacko fundies who insist that God gave them natural resources to use up and waste before anyone else can get their hands on them, and just generally side with everyone who says “To hell with what people who are smarter than me say is good for me; I’m gonna do whatever the fuck I want.” They can’t pay $30 a year more in taxes, but they can afford the $hundreds more per year they spend on gas and utilities because of their oversized vehicles, inefficient lightbulbs, and other wastefulness. The GOP is the party of ignorant cranks, and they want every last ignorant crank vote they can get.

  40. 40
    dead existentialist says:

    Stoopid GOP. The market will sort this shit out. Who’s gonna buy those hunnert watt bulbs? What can you do with a hunnert watt bulb, READ A BOOK? Who in America does that?

    (Besides, Boomers will avoid the fucking things in their dotage ’cause it’ll harsh their buzz.)

  41. 41
    JGabriel says:

    @lovable liberal:

    CFLs are being sold fraudulently. They don’t last anything close to 7 years.

    There are two potential issues here.

    1) Crappy wiring or utility company — uneven voltage/wattage due to surges or brownouts might stress the CFL enough to reduce its life down to incandescent levels.

    2) If you bought cheap, noname, CFLs, it could be that the manufacturer just made a shoddy product. Also, in my experience, the newer bulbs seem to be lasting longer as the technology ramps up.

    Or maybe you were just unlucky.


  42. 42
    Ash Can says:

    Oh and PS, I love that beautiful old Hungarian advertising poster too.

  43. 43
    Nellcote says:

    Light bulb legislation is just a distraction. They’re trying to ram through a repeal of the Clean Water Act in this bill.

  44. 44
    JGabriel says:


    Ooh! We should tell them that compact fluorescents have electrolytes! Problem solved!

    No, wait, better yet: tell them that Jesus said in Revelations that incandescent bulbs will make you gay. Or Mexican.


  45. 45
    fuckwit says:


  46. 46
    Martin says:

    CFLs are being sold fraudulently. They don’t last anything close to 7 years. I’m getting about the same lifetime as a double life incandescent – or less in one fixture.

    We installed our first ones 8 years ago. I’ve yet to have to replace a CFL, but the last incandescent was replaced I think in 2009.

    Cheapo bulbs? Bad wiring? Maybe you need a power conditioner on your house?

  47. 47
    Martin says:

    No, wait, better yet: tell them that Jesus said in Revelations that incandescent bulbs will make you gay. Or Mexican.

    Heh. Reminded me of my uncle who is generally a riot to be around, does this impression of a group of gay mexican gangbangers.

    Maybe we could get him to do a PSA.

  48. 48
    Martin says:

    They’re trying to ram through a repeal of the Clean Water Act in this bill.

    Ah, that makes a lot more sense. Fucking utilities screwing up the free market. You realize that bottled water is 1000x more expensive than tap water? Why, if we repealed the Clean Water Act, market forces would even that out, and we would all have the freedom to pay $1.29 per quart for tap water – and our right to have that be dirty, fracking fluid polluted water would also be preserved, as the founders intended!

  49. 49
    The Raven says:

    LL, #17: yes. There are some very poor ones out there, and the FTC simply isn’t doing it’s job of testing and labeling. Caveat emptor.

    Also, the lifespan of a CFL depends on usage and installation. CFL’s require a bit more attention to installation than incandescents; some can’t be dimmed, some don’t like to be installed upside down, some don’t like being put in unvented fixtures, and none of them like to be turned on and off frequently. Buy from reputable manufacturers–this usually means going to lighting stores–, read the fine print, and you can achieve the claimed lifespans.

    Tom, as to the broader issue: I think the Tea Party Republicans have fallen in love with death and destruction.

  50. 50
    Binky the perspicacious bear says:

    Nagyon szep poszterban.

  51. 51
    Davis X. Machina says:

    @Binky the perspicacious bear: Reminds us of how prosperous Austria-Hungary — or at least its biggest cities — were, compared to the rest of the Western world. Budapest’s metro is second in age only to London’s….older than New York’s.

  52. 52
    Dollared says:

    Please gang, not dumb. Look at the sponsors and count the contributions from Texas-based, coal powered utilities and construction companies. Texas is licensing coal powered plants like crazy, and they need markets.

    Remember, 25 of the 27% is either stupid or mentally poisoned. The other 2% are brilliant grifters, and they hold the lobbying jobs, the staff positions, and they write the bills and the press releases.

  53. 53
    hamletta says:

    I know I’m way late to the party, but I have some experience with crappy CFLs, because I bought some at the dollar store. That was some false economy. Never mind not lasting, they didn’t even light up in the first place.

    I thought it was my crappy lighting fixtures, as the industrial sockets (from American Science & Surplus) in my rebuilt ’50s lamp worked just fine.

    But I did some research and found out you need to buy CFLs with the EnergyStar seal. Really! It’s like the Good Housekeeping seal of approval.

    Got some at Aldi for ~$1.75 per bulb, and the first one worked in an old lamp I’d given up on.

  54. 54
    Mike Kay (Democrat of the Century) says:

    5 Democrats voted for this.

    Boren of Oklahoma. Rahall of West Virgina. I can see why they would considering they’re from fossil fuel locations.

    Collin Peterson of north-west Minnesota is a Blue-Dog. Jim Matheson of Salt Lake City (who knew Mormons loved big bulbs?).

    And Jerry Costello of south-west illonis, which is a mystery.

  55. 55


    You have one strange ass kotatsu if it has a light bulb in it. Mine sure as hell doesn’t. It has a heating element. As does the one pictured in the link you provided. And as does everyone I have ever seen in any store or home in the 13 years I have lived in Japan.

    Not sure if this is snark or some twisted appeal to save the 60 watt bulb. But I can assure you there are no complaints here in Japan about switching to CFL or LED. In fact people are buying LED lights like hotcakes at 1500 to 3000 yen a pop. It seems that people would rather pay a bit more for a bulb rather than risk another big round of Cesium-137 sweeping across the countryside. The Japanese are funny that way. Apparently, unlike Americans, they seem capable of learning from their mistakes. The drive among everyday folks to reduce electric use and end the need for nuclear reactors is inspiring here. But yeah, intrusive government…tyranny… freedom fries…give me wasteful bulbs or death.

  56. 56
    Bruce Webb says:

    “What I cannot understand is why they did something to hurt both business—light bulb manufacturers are already invested in making new bulbs to meet the standards”

    Which is why this is so stupid even by the rock-bottom standards of the GOP. I mean how much enforcement effort is really needed here? The manufacturers have already re-tooled and they are not likely to just go backwards on this unless the money is good enough to restart the old lines.

    The history of regulation of the auto industry is instructive here. The Big Three went to the wall resisting every single safety oriented change every mandated, insisting that consumers would simply refuse to pay for: turn signals, reverse lights, side mirrors, seat belts, air bags only to turn around and hype them as exciting new features on their high end brands in the first years of the transition period to full implementation. “Be the first to have passenger side airbags!” Same with gas standards, what were crippling regulations designed to destroy the industry and make everyone drive around in death-trap tin cans miraculously turned into sales points once the manufacturers learned they had no choice.

    If Republicans really believe that outside of wacko survivalist camps that consumers are going to long for the days when they bought light bulbs by the case and swapped them out on a regular basis as opposed to the screw it in and forget it of a CFL and even more the next generation of LED bulbs they have another think coming. Cutting off funds for light bulb enforcers is not going to reverse Time’s Arrow here, anymore than car buyers are going to be clamoring for cars whose bumpers fail the now mandated 5 mph crash test

  57. 57
    Wanpaku says:

    My kotatsu also has a built-in heating element. Maybe 50 years ago they used a lightbulb but even the ancient looking one my in wife’s grandparents’ house has a heater.

    I love my kotatsu and if I ever move back to Canada I will be bringing it with me – along with the heated toilet seat. How people living in North American cold weather climates haven’t adopted both of these yet I don’t know.

  58. 58
    From Southern Illinois says:

    @Mike Kay #54

    Jerry Costello is from Southern Illinois – Coal Country.

  59. 59
    maya says:

    dead existentialist@

    Who’s gonna buy those hunnert watt bulbs? What can you do with a hunnert watt bulb, READ A BOOK?

    GOPer’s need them in the bathroom so they don’t mistakenly shit in the sink.

  60. 60
    Steaming Pile says:

    Had a guy say six swirly bulbs costs $28, and use that to debunk the idea that he’d save any money at all using them (at 8.5 cents/kwh). I saw a six pack of these bulbs selling for around nine bucks. Somebody’s either not being quite honest, or thinks it’s still 2003 or something.

  61. 61
    Paul says:

    The 100 W bulb is dead …. it now is called a 70 W bulb (gives same amount of light). You see? It is true, the legislation kills the 100 W bulb. Seriously.

  62. 62
    jimmiraybob says:

    We wouldn’t be in this pickle if long, long ago the damned liberals hadn’t forced us to venture out of the caves….and invented language and fancy thinking to replace good old dependable grunting and proper fear in the gods and wind demons and such. I say, bringing back pre-civilization is the only answer.

  63. 63
    Woodrowfan says:

    I’ve been using the CFLs for years and haven’t replaced one yet. I have read that constantly having to replace even the more expensive CFLs indicates a problem with the home’s wiring.

  64. 64
    Marc says:

    The earlier generation of compact florescents really did have a significant early failure rate; I noticed this too. (Power can be glitchy in my house, which I think contributed.) The newer ones have been much more reliable, even given the surges. So I suspect ll simply got the early ones, where his experience matches mine. Try the newer ones – they’re better.

  65. 65
    Mike in NC says:

    Republican of Texas

    Three of the stupidest words in the English language.

  66. 66
    Damned at Random says:

    The legislation was passed under Bush, but goes into effect under Obama. The wingnuts don’t realize there was a phase in period, so it is yet another liberty lost to the Kenyan usurper. If McCain was president, this wouldn’t be an issue.

  67. 67
    mb says:

    Many kotatsu do use heating lamps of one sort or other, but I’ve never seen one that uses a standard light bulb. There usually isn’t a lot of space under a kotatsu so they tend to use either straight or curved rod shapes. They’re also usually filtered, since visible light is a waste product in that application. My point is that it’s unlikely that regulations target lamp designs specifically intended for the purposes of heating.

    I also don’t see why it would matter.

    It does seem like throwing stones in a glass house when one considers the myriad poorly-designed structures in the U.S., but the Japanese should really properly insulate buildings. While they’re at they should cut down on the disposable chopsticks too. Ah, now I’m really off-topic.

  68. 68
    @Martin says:

    Heh. Reminded me of my uncle who is generally a riot to be around, does this impression of a group of gay mexican gangbangers.
    Maybe we could get him to do a PSA.

    “We don’t need no stinking bitches”?

    Sorry, couldn’t help myself.

  69. 69
    Ruckus says:

    Mike in NC

    It’s not the words that are stupid. It’s what they are describing.

    But you knew that.

  70. 70
    Tehanu says:

    Saving Power and Money with CFLs

    — A 23-watt CFL gives as much light as an ordinary 100-watt bulb. This means the ordinary bulb uses over 4 times as much power when it is on.

    — If the light is on for four (4) hours every day, the CFL uses 33.6 kilowatts of electricity a year, while the ordinary bulb uses 146 kilowatts.

    — At 12¢ per kilowatt, 4 hours a day, the CFL costs $4.02 to run for a year, while the ordinary bulb costs $17.52 to run — $13.50 more. In seven years, the average life of a CFL, you could save $94.50.

    — The CFL lasts ten times as long as the ordinary bulb. That means that, in seven years, you probably have to replace the ordinary bulb ten times. If it costs $1 to replace the bulb each time, it will cost $10 altogether.

    — That’s a total of $104.50 saved on just one bulb. Three bulbs can save $313.50 in energy and replacement costs over the life of the bulbs.

  71. 71
    Tonal Crow says:

    @Tehanu (69): Good points, except that energy is measured in kilowatt-hours. Power is measured in kilowatts.

  72. 72
    ChiTom says:

    @29 Martin–

    “How you do it” matters? Sure it does. How about being accurate and/or truthful matters?
    It is not a “flat-out ban” on incandescent bulbs. Rather the legislation “requires all general-purpose light bulbs that produce 310–2600 lumens of light be 30% more energy efficient . . . than [current] incandescent bulbs by 2012 to 2014” (Wikipedia). From a new and seemingly moderate standard to a “flat-out ban”– see how that works?

  73. 73
    Nancy Irving says:

    How many Republicans does it take to screw a country?

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