Light Bulbs and Liberty

In 2007, the US Congress passed the Energy and Security Act. The Act created energy efficiency standards for lighting, including household lighting, effectively ending the ability of American consumers to purchase the incandescent light bulbs that have been in use for the last 100 years. However, the law will not be implemented without overcoming obstacles and resistance. While U.S. Congressman Joe Barton's BULB Act, a move to repeal the 2007 Act, failed this past legislative session, another prong of attack has come out of the state of Texas, says Ryan Brannan, a policy analyst with the Texas Public Policy Foundation.

  • Texas House Bill 2510 (HB 2510), which was recently signed by Governor Perry and will go into effect January 1, 2012 (the same day the Federal Energy and Security Act is slated to phase out the 100 watt light bulb), will effectively repeal the Energy and Security Act within the state of Texas.

  • Asserting a constitutional argument, the bill's authors maintain that so long as the bulb itself is produced within the borders of Texas and remains within the state for use, it is not subject to the overarching authority of the interstate commerce clause.

    In order for HB 2510 to stand, it will have to overcome judicial scrutiny assessing if the interstate commerce clause does in fact apply. There is precedent supporting both sides of the argument. Also, the state will have to attract a manufacturer of incandescent bulbs, which will undoubtedly be a challenge given that HB 2510 might be contested and overturned shortly after production begins, forcing them to close shop. In any case, it seems that a constitutional showdown regarding the consumer's right to make a market-based decision is inevitable.

    Source: Ryan Brannan, Light Bulbs and Liberty, Texas Public Policy Foundation, September 2011.

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    First published by the National Center for Policy Analysis, United States

    FMF Policy Bulletin/ 04 October 2011
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