Earlier this year, state Rep. Marva Beck looked up at the elegant light fixtures above the House floor in Austin and decided they would be ruined by "squiggly" energy-efficient bulbs. So she delved into the bulb issue and co-authored a bill, recently signed into law by Governor Rick Perry, that exempts incandescent bulbs manufactured and sold in Texas from the 2007 federal law that phases out certain types of bulbs by 2012.
But, somehow, thanks to a local politician, the bulb problem has become much deeper than a matter of ugly squiggles in elegant fixtures -- much, much deeper. Nationally deeper. Ideologically deeper. Like the-Tea-Party-is-way-into-this-shit deeper.
The BULB Act, introduced by Texas Congressman Joe Barton, would have repealed the 2007 law that effectively bans some types of incandescent bulbs in favor or more efficient options. But after much debate on the House floor, Barton's bill didn't garner enough votes to get through Congress. So, to comply with the 2007 law, certain old incandescent bulbs will be eliminated in favor of other options, including a newer incandescent bulb that is both more efficient and more expensive.
"The federal government ought not to be in a position to tell us what we can and cannot buy," Beck tells Unfair Park, echoing the sentiments of suddenly bulb-obsessed conservatives across the nation. "The economy that we're in -- with the price of the essential things like food and gas ... why would we put this extra burden on the consumer?"
Thus the new Texas law. It protects incandescent bulbs manufactured and sold within state borders, depending on one fairly major supposition -- that there are, in fact, incandescent bulbs that are being manufactured and sold in Texas.
Which, right now, there aren't.
"We're hopeful this bill will encourage someone to take that back up," Beck says. Much of our country's bulb supply comes from China, Mexico and other places. Beck and the bill's supporters want those jobs back here in Texas. According to the Los Angeles Times, Pennsylvania and South Carolina are making strides to follow our state's lead.
Setting up a new manufacturing plant to churn out old and inefficient, but cheap, easy, and familiar bulbs comes with its own set of issues, especially when those bulbs can only be sold in one state. (If these mythical plants turn out efficient bulbs, the law won't matter.) But let's be honest: At this point, our nation's bulbs are more of a symbolic issue. Cheap goods, more jobs, less government -- yep, we've heard these are noble ideals, maybe even good enough to sustain a presidential candidacy, assuming the accompanying hair is wavy enough.
But let's not get ahead of ourselves. Let's see the humor in our nation's bulb crisis. Jon Stewart does.
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He laid out the Great Light Bulb Debate nicely on last night's Daily Show. Washington lawmakers, instead of settling our country's enormous debt crisis, have been hotly debating the bulbs. "They are refighting a light bulb standards fight that they settled in 2007," Stewart said. Here's the video:
And since we're nothing if not fair and balanced, check out this cartoon break-down of the issue: