Why Republicans are incandescent over switch to low-energy light bulbs

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Republicans in Washington have had a bright idea. A light bulb has illuminated above the party's collective intellect and it's definitely not one of those fluorescent ones friendly to the environment. It's the old energy-guzzling incandescent type.

While wars are fought and unemployment numbers soar, members of the majority in the House of Representatives occupied themselves yesterday with a Bill that aims to reverse legislation promoting low-energy light bulbs that was signed into law in 2007 by then President George Bush.

What seemed like a good idea at the time has all of a sudden become anathema to conservative lawmakers.

Michele Bachmann, the founder of the Tea Party caucus and presidential hopeful, has long railed against the law, calling it government over-reach. She says it is every US citizen's right to buy old-style bulbs that gobble electricity if they wish. Never mind predictions that the law would reduce household energy costs by an average of 7 per cent and save America $12.7 billion (£7.9bn) annually by 2020.

The law introduces new energy standards for the manufacturers of the bulbs. From January the 100-watt fluorescents will no longer be available, but some new kinds of fluorescents will remain on the market as well as an array of new incandescent and LED bulbs that work much more efficiently.

But conservatives are affronted. "This is about more than just energy consumption, it is about personal freedom," said Joe Barton, the Texas Republican behind the repeal effort. "Voters sent us a message... that it is time for politicians and activists in Washington to stop interfering in their lives and manipulating the free market."

If the Republicans are looking retro, recall that the original law was not drawn up by green-hued Democrats but by one of their own. That was Fred Upton of Michigan, who released a statement at the time praising it: "By upgrading to more efficient light bulbs, we will help preserve energy resources and reduce harmful emission [sic], all the while saving American families billions of dollars in their electric bills."