In the last full day of the Obama administration, the Department of Energy just issued a final rule that will outlaw even more light bulbs.
The 2007 light bulb ban in effect outlawed most incandescent light bulbs by imposing efficiency standards on ordinary light bulbs. Congress exempted a few types of light bulbs, including bug lights, three-way bulbs, "rough service lamps," and some decorative bulbs, such as globe-shaped bulbs.
But that law gave DOE the right to expand the class of bulbs covered by the mandates. In a new rule published today, DOE redefined the words in the law, "general service lamp," to include a lot more types of light bulb. In short, bulb types that Congress had originally exempted are no longer exempted.
Three-way bulbs, which have two different filaments and thus three different brightnesses, are currently exempted. DOE just ruled that they now need to be covered. The Department's reasoning: "DOE expects these sales will likely increase since these lamps could be used as replacements for other regulated lamp types." In other words: People might start buying these bulbs because they want regular light bulbs rather than expensive LEDs or crappy fluorescents.
DOE also spiked the exemption for globe-shaped bulbs. Many manufacturers make, and many retailers sell, globe-shaped bulbs that met the standards, but consumers were left with the option to buy globe-shaped bulbs of the old type. That couldn't stand.
This rule doesn't go into effect for three years, but it could lead pretty quickly to domestic bulb makers ceasing production.
A few bulb types are still exempt, including bug lights and oven lights.
Timothy P. Carney, The Washington Examiner's senior political columnist, can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org. His column appears Tuesday and Thursday nights on washingtonexaminer.com.