Actually, not. Not even close.
I had some mistaken notions on this issue myself, due to the sort of hysteria indicated in this post title, so I thought I'd pass along a point of clarification.
Things are not nearly as draconian as I had thought.
“My electrician said they were being phased out,” he said. “If he’s wrong, I’m going to kill him.”
As it happens, Mr. Henault’s electrician is wrong.
Late in his second term, George W. Bush signed into law the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007, which requires light bulb makers to improve the efficiency of incandescent bulbs by 25 percent. The details of the law dictated a phase-out of the manufacture of certain bulbs in their current incarnation, starting with 100-watt bulbs next January.
The law does not ban the use or manufacture of all incandescent bulbs, nor does it mandate the use of compact fluorescent ones. It simply requires that companies make some of their incandescent bulbs work a bit better, meeting a series of rolling deadlines between 2012 and 2014.
Furthermore, all sorts of exemptions are written into the law, which means that all sorts of bulbs are getting a free pass and can keep their energy-guzzling ways indefinitely, including “specialty bulbs” like the Edison bulbs favored by Mr. Henault, as well as three-way bulbs, silver-bottomed bulbs, chandelier bulbs, refrigerator bulbs, plant lights and many, many others.
Nonetheless, as the deadline for the first phase of the legislation looms, light bulb confusion — even profound light bulb anxiety — is roiling the minds of many. The other day, Ken Henderlong, a sales associate at Oriental Lamp Shade Company on Lexington Avenue, said that his customers “say they want to stockpile incandescent bulbs, but they are not sure when to start. No one knows when the rules go into effect or what the rules are.”
Probably this is because articles about light bulb legislation are incredibly boring, and articles about the end of the light bulb as we know it are less so. Certainly they stick in the mind longer.
For years, Glenn Beck, among other conservative pundits and personalities, has proclaimed the death of the incandescent light bulb as a casualty of the “nanny state” (never mind that the light bulb legislation is a Bush-era act), and he has been exhorting his listeners to hoard 100-watt light bulbs (along with gold and canned food). This year, conservative politicians took a leaf from his playbook, introducing bills like the Light Bulb Freedom of Choice Act, courtesy of Michele Bachmann, the Minnesota congresswoman, that would repeal the 2007 legislation.
The hubbub has been deeply irritating to light bulb manufacturers and retailers, which have been explaining the law, over and over again, to whomever will listen. At a Congressional hearing in March, Kyle Pitsor, a representative from the National Electrical Manufacturers Association, a trade group that represents makers of light bulbs, among others, patiently but clearly disputed claims that the law banned incandescent bulbs. He restated the law’s points and averred light bulb makers’ support for the law. As usual, it seemed as if no one was paying attention.
Last week, for example, in the middle of Lightfair, an annual trade show for the lighting industry, Philips unveiled a winged LED bulb with a promised life span of 25,000 hours and a price tag of $40 to $50. The Associated Press reported its cost as $50, and Fox News ran the story with the headline “As Government Bans Regular Light Bulbs, LED Replacements Will Cost $50 Each.” Mr. Beck, Rush Limbaugh and conservative bloggers around the country gleefully pounced on the story, once again urging the stockpiling of light bulbs.
Joseph Higbee, a spokesman for the electrical manufacturers association, offered his take on the situation: “Unfortunately people do not yet understand this lighting transition, and mistakenly think they won’t be able to buy incandescent light bulbs. This misinformation has been promoted by a number of media outlets. Incandescent light bulbs are not being banned, and the new federal energy-efficiency standards for light bulbs do not mandate the use of CFLs. My hope is that the media can help the American people understand the energy-efficient lighting options available, as opposed to furthering misconceptions.”
The whole thing.