By Elisa Wood
March 8, 2012
US Congresswoman Michele Bachmann often asks why government should tell us which kind of light bulb to choose. Turns out it’s a question with a trillion dollar answer.
We will save $1.1 trillion through 2035 because of existing energy efficiency mandates for light bulbs and appliances, according to a report issued this week by the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy and the Appliance Standards Awareness Project.
“The Efficiency Boom: Cashing In on the Savings from Appliance Standards” says the standards will cut our energy use 200 quads, the equivalent of the US using no energy for two years. The standards already have reduced our energy use 3.5 percent.
This means lighting and appliance standards have saved more energy than almost any other efficiency program, says the report.
Bringing the numbers close to home, the average household will save about $30,000 over 45 years, or enough to cover two years of typical mortgage payments, under existing and new standards. This assumes the household changes major appliances every 15 years.
It’s important to note that Bachmann’s assertion – that the government is choosing light bulbs – is an oversimplification. The standards do not mandate any particular kind of lights, but call for manufacturers to achieve a certain level of energy efficiency. True, an old technology may not make the cut. Oddly, though, no one seems worried about losing access to inefficient air conditioners, computers or other appliances. Anti-standards folks, like Bachmann, seem attached only to inefficient light bulbs. (This bewilders me.)
US appliance standards go back to 1974 when then-Governor Ronald Reagan signed a bill to bring greater efficiency to major appliances in that state. Other states followed, but the federal government didn’t get on board until 1987. Again it was Reagan, this time as President, who signed the first bill. Additional standards became law under President George Bush and President George W. Bush. Since then, the Department of Energy has further updated standards. About 55 products are covered; not only lighting, but also refrigerators, air conditioners, motors and other appliances.
“Standards have been a bipartisan energy policy success story stretching across four decades and five presidencies,” said Andrew deLaski, executive director of ASAP, a coalition of consumer, environmental and efficiency groups.