Traditional light bulbs not going away… yet

Traditional light bulbs are not going away after all. Lawmakers on Capitol Hill struck a deal late Thursday to at least temporarily reverse earlier plans that would have effectively done away with the incandescent bulb that has been around since the 19th century.

President George W. Bush signed legislation in 2007 to raise efficiency standards on light bulbs in 2012 to the point that the traditional bulb would have been rendered obsolete.

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Speaker John Boehner vowed to overturn the higher efficiency standards when he took control of the House of Representatives in January and the deal struck Thursday follows through on that promise.

Republicans and Democrats added language to a must-pass annual spending bill that would essentially defund the Energy Department’s ability to mandate the change, at least through the end of September, when the budget year ends.

It is unclear what will happen thereafter, as the new standards will remain on the books, even if there is no way for the government to enforce the new rules. The compromise language is expected to pass Congress when lawmakers vote on the broader budget compromise that keeps the government running on Friday or in the next few days.

Advocates say technology has marched on, and bulbs should be updated instead of lagging behind while more energy-efficient homes, cars and appliances are built.

The law doesn’t ban the traditional pear-shaped light bulb. It requires that any 100-watt bulbs manufactured as of the new year be at least 27 percent more efficient. The same would happen with 75-watt bulbs next year, and 60- and 40-watt bulbs the year after.

The problem with traditional light bulbs is that about 90 percent of the electricity they use goes into producing heat rather than light, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

Those opposing the law say they are concerned about several issues, including the higher cost of the optional compact fluorescent bulbs, called CFLs, and toxic material in them.