Monday, December 19, 2011

With pending ban, people hoard light bulbs

Karen Beseth is all about energy conservation. She shuts off the lights when leaving the room and sets the thermostat at 67 degrees through her small town's blustery winters. But there's one concession the DeWitt, N.Y., insurance consultant won't make -- she loves her incandescent light bulbs.

No surprise then that in advance of the federal phaseout of traditional bulbs starting Jan. 1, she's stocking up. Her garage and basement shelves are filled with 100-watt four-packs. "There's just some things we put our foot down on," she says.

Polls show that many Americans aren't even aware of the pending ban, but 13% say they are hoarding to prepare for a time when the 134-year-old technology joins heroin and sea-turtle meat in the banned-products pantheon. Home Depot, which supplies nearly a third of the bulbs that plug into the nation's 4 billion light sockets, says that as 2011 draws to a close, incandescent sales have jumped.

House Republicans succeeded in eliminating funding for enforcement of the new efficiency standards from the Department of Energy's budget last week. However, major makers of light bulbs have already made the switch. Also, to be clear, the new standards don't ban incandescent bulbs, but require that they be more efficient.

Experts like Bill Hamilton, Home Depot's merchandising VP for electrical, say alternatives to old-style incandescents have vastly improved -- light quality is up, and prices are falling fast. But not everyone's convinced.

In the House of Representatives, some Republicans are still hoping to see the ban repealed. And in Texas, the state legislature passed a bill declaring it legal to manufacture and sell incandescent bulbs within state lines -- never mind the fact that there's not a single bulb factory in Texas. "Everyone loves it," says a spokesperson for George Lavender, the representative who wrote the bill. (Smart Spending)

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