If President Donald Trump’s transformation into a cartoon environmental villain isn’t complete yet, it’s getting close. After weeks of proposed rollbacks to environmental regulations designed to moderate harmful emissions and thus combat climate change, the Trump administration is now taking aim at energy efficiency standards for lightbulbs. The White House announced it is undoing lightbulb efficiency standards first introduced by President George W. Bush and then built upon during the Obama administration. The efficiency standards resulted in the majority of lightbulbs sold in the U.S. being switched over from the iconic, century-old incandescent bulbs to LEDs or fluorescent bulbs that can last as long as a decade.
The result? “Thanks to a 2007 law signed by President George W. Bush, shelves these days are largely stocked with LED bulbs that look more like the traditional pear-shape incandescent version but use just one-fifth the energy,” NPR reported in March. “A second wave of lightbulb changes was set to happen. But now the Trump administration wants to undo an Obama-era regulation designed to make a wide array of specialty lightbulbs more energy-efficient.” The new requirements would have further heightened efficiency standards for incandescent bulbs, as well as imposing efficiency standards on three-way lightbulbs and those used in recessed lighting, chandeliers, and other decorative light fixtures.
The Natural Resources Defense Council said the rollback would affect bulbs in 2.7 billion light sockets—roughly half the conventional sockets in use in the U.S.—and the squandered energy savings would amount to the electricity equivalent of 25 large power plants. Why the change then? “What’s saved is not worth it, for the little they save, and what people were going through, it was not worth it,” Trump told reporters at the White House Wednesday. “And price was another thing.” Critics of the move—i.e., anyone who’s not in the lighting industry—noted the new efficiency standards, in fact, saved money and reduced emissions in the long run. Not to mention the price of LED bulbs has plummeted to just a couple of bucks. “The Trump administration is trying to protect technology that was first invented in the 1800s,” Andrew deLaski of the Appliance Standards Awareness Project told NPR. “It’s like trying to protect the horse and buggy from the automobile technology.”
Logic aside, even more important for the Trump administration, the change will protect Americans’ freedom to consume freely without apparent cost until it’s too late. The rollback “will ensure that the choice of how to light homes and businesses is left to the American people, not the federal government,” a spokeswoman for the Department of Energy said. Smells like freedom to me.