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Trump scraps Obama-era requirement for more energy efficient light bulbs

Environmental groups warn 'dim-witted decision' will cost consumers and increase pollution

Conrad Duncan
Thursday 05 September 2019 16:12 BST
Elizabeth Warren responds to Trump's support for inefficient light bulbs

The Trump administration has finalised its rollback of an Obama-era rule that would have required light bulbs to be more energy efficient.

The move stalls a years-long bipartisan push by Congress and past administrations to transition the US to energy-saving LED bulbs and other lighting that uses less electricity.

Donald Trump told reporters on Wednesday that the Energy Department cancelled the rule because “what’s saved is not worth it.”

However, environmental groups have warned that the rollback is likely to have negative consequences.

Households across the country could see increased electrical costs up to $12bn (£9.8bn) due to the use of less efficient bulbs, according to the Natural Resources Defence Council (NRDC), and an increase in greenhouse gas emissions.

The Energy Department said the rule change “will ensure that the choice of how to light homes and businesses is left to the American people, not the federal government.”

The Trump administration has claimed more efficient bulbs would cost consumers more to buy than they would save on their electric bills – a claim that is challenged by environmental groups.

“Consumers and business are the ones who will pay for this dim-witted decision,” Bob Keefe, executive director of the nonprofit Environmental Entrepreneurs, said.

“[The rollback is] going to cost taxpayers more money, make US businesses less competitive, threaten jobs and innovation, and set back our efforts to combat climate change,"

Noah Horowitz, director of the Centre for Energy Efficiency Standards at the NRDC, said his group would explore all options to stop the “completely misguided and unlawful” rollback.

“Today’s action sets the United States up to become the world’s dumping ground for the inefficient incandescent and halogen bulbs being phased out around the world,” Mr Horowitz said.

“Given the worsening climate crisis, this is no time to significantly increase pollution and consumer energy bills just so a few lighting companies can make more money selling inefficient bulbs.”

The National Electrical Manufacturers Association (NEMA) has supported the rollback, arguing that the Obama-era rule would risk American jobs and limit consumer choice.

In a statement, NEMA said the rollback would “not impact the market's continuing, rapid adoption of energy-saving lighting in the next few years.”

The proposal to improve energy efficiency standards followed a law signed in 2007 by then-president George W Bush that called for the phasing out of the most inefficient incandescent and halogen bulbs.

After that law saw a significant increase in the adoption of LED bulbs, Barack Obama’s administration proposed stricter efficiency standards.

When Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders was asked on Wednesday if he would reverse the Trump administration’s decision, he replied: “Duh! I’ve followed this issue of LED light bulbs and so forth and there have been huge breakthroughs, you all know that.

“We use much less electricity, these light bulbs last a lot longer and it is a major breakthrough that also speaks to the issue of energy efficiency.”

He added: “If you can get electricity from a light bulb that utilises one-tenth of the power that an old incandescent light bulb used, of course you’re going to do that.”

The rollback is another example of Mr Trump’s attempts to remove environmental protections that his administration claims are a burden on businesses.

The Obama administration’s efficiency standards were set to come into effect on 1 January 2020.

Agencies contributed to this report

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