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The Incandescent Light Bulb Ban, Banned!

Back in August, we talked about the <a title="Incandescent Light Bulb Ban of 2014" href="http://www.atgstores.com/ourblog/Update-Incandescent-Light-Bulb-Ban-of-2014" target="_blank">Incandescent Light Bulb Ban of 2014</a>, which was signed into law in 2007 by GWB, and discussed how that legislation changed your bulb-buying options.</br></br>To recap, the ban didn’t actually ban <a title="Incandescent Bulbs" href="http://www.atgstores.com/lighting/light-bulbs/incandescent-bulbs/" target="_blank">incandescent bulbs</a>. It mandated that they be made more efficient by 2014. So, basically it meant that bulb manufacturers had seven years – <em>seven years!</em> – to improve light-bulb efficiency.</br></br><strong>Technology Forcing</strong></br></br>In the environmental law community, this kind of legislated innovation in industrial policy is called <em>technology forcing</em>. It’s not always successful, of course. As we all know, it’s more often the case that nothing happens at all when a politician snaps her fingers.</br></br>But, you know what? <em>They did it.</em> Light-bulb engineers totally did it. Today, you can go out and buy a <a title="Light Bulbs" href="http://www.atgstores.com/lighting/light-bulbs/" target="_blank">light bulb</a> with the same kind of soft-white glow you’ve always loved that will last longer and use less energy to give you the same amount of light.</br></br>Pretty cool, right? Well, apparently not everyone thought so.</br></br><strong>Technology Forcing vs. Consumer Choice</strong></br></br>Before all the political divisiveness we see today, policy wonks and politicians generally agreed that the new innovations spurred by this legislation were a great thing that would save Americans a lot of money – <a title="The Washington Post" href="http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/post-partisan/wp/2014/12/10/one-of-the-most-boneheaded-anti-government-policies-of-the-last-decade-is-back/" target="_blank">around $6 billion a year, by some measures</a>.</br></br>But, the counterargument that led to a legislative reversal in the newest spending bill is that the “ban” took choices away from consumers. In essence, politicians said if people want to buy cheap bulbs that don’t last as long, they should be able to do it.</br></br>Well, fair enough, but pretty much everyone agrees on what the outcome will be: Cheaper, less efficient bulbs will reenter the market and undercut the price of the improved bulbs, which will in turn slow light-bulb advancement that could result in even more energy and cost savings in the future.</br></br><strong>Bulb Ban’s Ban: Good or Bad?</strong></br></br>Whether the law reversal is good or bad is obviously up for debate. Consumer freedom is good. And, better technology is also good. The pros and cons seem pretty even.</br></br>But, keep this in mind: Regardless of your opinion of “big government’s” role in a free market economy, part of its job is to protect consumers <em>and</em> the environment, and doing both of those things at the same time takes compromise.</br></br>With any luck, the new legislation won’t create a “race to the bottom” of light-bulb manufacturers scrambling to make the cheapest products, but even if it does you’ll still have the choice as a consumer and the power to vote with your bulb preference.
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