As Colbert lampoons CFLs, a real debate heats up in Washington

Consumer Reports News: March 09, 2011 02:49 PM

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In case you missed last night's episode of The Colbert Report, here's an outtake of host Stephen Colbert's rant against CFLs. It's classic Colbert, especially his concern that energy-efficient lightbulbs pose a serious threat to the American joke-telling industry. "How many blondes does it take to screw in a lightbulb?" Colbert asks. "I don't know. It's only been seven years, we don't have to change it yet."

Colbert's segment is obviously a send-up, but it's based on a real battle taking place in Washington, D.C. over the 2007 Energy Independence Act-mandated phase out of incandescent lightbulbs, starting with 100-watt bulbs in 2012. Representative Michele Bachmann and four Republican colleagues are trying to repeal the legislation with the sponsor of H.R. 849, The Light Bulb Freedom Act. (A similar bill, S.395, the Better Use of Light Bulbs Act, sponsored by 28 senators, is up for debate tomorrow in a Senate sub-committee.) “The government has no business telling an individual what kind of lightbulb to buy," Bachmann said in a statement last week.

Consumers Union respectfully disagrees, a point we made formally today in a letter to the U.S. Energy and Natural Resources Committee. "The new [lighting] standards are estimated to save consumers billions of dollars in energy costs over the coming years," reads the letter. As a caveat to our support for the phase out, Consumers Union is calling on Congress to develop comprehensive recycling programs in order to recapture mercury in CFLs and possible toxins in LEDs.

Read the full letter and check out our latest test results on CFL and LED lighting.

—Daniel DiClerico


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