The federal government's light-bulb mandate has been the subject of earlier coverage on this site here, here and here. Now USA Today steps into the story with one of the most slanted pieces of reporting I've seen anywhere. Under the headline, "GOP tries to block eco-friendly light bulbs," the newspaper reports, "The U.S. House is going to try next week to block the federal government's transition from traditional incandescent light bulbs to more energy-efficient options."
The headline is inaccurate. The Republicans aren't trying to prevent anyone from buying or using an eco-friendly light bulbs; they are trying to stop the government from forcing ordinary Americans to buy one kind of light bulb over another. It's about more choice, not less. The line about "the federal government's transition from traditional incandescent light bulbs to more energy-efficient options" is also inaccurate. What kind of bulbs the federal government uses is not at issue; what is at issue is what kind of lightbulbs ordinary Americans can use in their households. It's not even clear to me that the lightbulbs the government wants to force Americans to buy are more "eco-friendly" than the old kind. They do last longer, but not nearly as long as the packages promise. They may use less electricity. But some of them also contain mercury that can harm the environment and is so toxic that the government recommends that if you accidentally break one you have to leave the room for 30 minutes. They are also so toxic that in many jurisdictions you aren't allowed to throw it away with ordinary trash, making it very difficult to get rid of them. I actually have three of the darned things sitting on my desk waiting to take them to Ikea, which is one of the few places that accepts them.
The USA Today article goes on:
The battle is the latest in the view by some conservatives that government is trying to be Big Brother. Talk radio host Rush Limbaugh, for example, has railed about the issue, saying 'government ought to have not a damn thing to say about the light bulb that I buy.'"
But environmentalists and their allies say the debate highlights real issues about energy efficiency, pollution and costs.
The Natural Resources Defense Council today issues an analysis showing the new energy standards could save $12.5 billion annually when they're fully implemented in 2020. Some states -- such as New York, Texas and California -- would save more than $1 billion in energy costs by using more efficient light bulbs.
"The savings from the lighting standards would be like getting a free month without a power bill, every single year," said Andrew deLaski, executive director of the Appliance Standards Awareness Project, which conducted the analysis for the NRDC.
No mention in the story of the fact that the light-bulb mandate was signed into law by a Republican, George W. Bush. The conservative in the story "railed," while the environmentalist simply "said." The issue is framed as "conservatives" and "GOP" versus "environmentalists," not as "conservatives" versus "liberals" or versus "environmental activists" or versus "lobbyists for GE and other big corporate polluters who would like the government to help them sell more expensive lightbulbs by forcing Americans to buy them rather than by making a case to consumers on the merits that they are worth the extra money up-front because they save electricity costs over the long run." The conservative and Republicans in the story have quotes taken from other sources, while the environmentalist seems to have actually been called up and interviewed by the USA Today reporter.