‘Liberal Fantasies:’ Biden Administration Begins Enforcing Nationwide Bans on Lightbulbs, Igniting Backlash from GOP

The Biden administration started enforcing a nationwide ban on several types of popular light bulbs Tuesday as part of its aggressive energy efficiency agenda. 

Under regulations from the Department of Energy (DOE), retailers and manufacturers will be prohibited from selling incandescent and similar halogen light bulbs, representing a sizable share of current supplies of light bulbs. Instead, retailers and manufacturers must sell light-emitting diodes (LED) or alternatives or risk substantial federal penalties. 

“It’s impossible for Democrats to leave us alone. States must fight back,” said GOP Representative Bob Good of Virginia on X, formerly known as Twitter, before the ban’s enforcement. 

“President Biden continues to push liberal fantasies through his weaponized federal agencies,” added Republican Representative Andy Barr of Kentucky. “The Department of Energy should be focused on American energy independence, not on what lightbulbs you can or can’t purchase for your home or business.”

In April of 2022, months after the first proposal of the new rules, the DOE finalized regulations that prohibited certain light bulbs over their low-efficiency levels. According to the announcement from the DOE, the regulations are projected to cut carbon emissions by 222 million metric tons over the next three decades and save consumers a predicted $3 billion per year on utility bills. The DOE has warned retailers for months about its enforcement of the light bulb ban to ensure industry-wide compliance.

“The lighting industry is already embracing more energy-efficient products, and this measure will accelerate progress to deliver the best products to American consumers and build a better and brighter future,” said Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm last year. 

While U.S. households have increasingly switched to LED lightbulbs since 2015, less than half of households reported using LEDs mostly or exclusively, according to the most recent results from the Residential Energy Consumption Survey.

According to the survey, 47% use mostly or only LEDs, 15% used mostly halogens or incandescents, and 12% use mostly or all compact fluorescent (CFL), with an additional 26% reporting no predominant bulb type, showed the federal data. In December, the DOE introduced separate rules that ban CFL bulbs and pave the way for LEDs to be the only legal light bulbs to purchase. 

Switch to LEDs more popular in high-income households; new regulations will impact lower-income Americans

Data from the survey shows LEDs are much more popular in high-income households, meaning the new energy regulations will significantly impact lower-income Americans. While 54% of households with an income over $100,000 per year used LEDs, only 39% of households with an income of $20,000 or less used LEDs.

“We believe that further regulatory interference in the marketplace is unwarranted given that more energy efficient lighting choices, namely light-emitting diode bulbs, are already available for those consumers who prefer them over incandescent bulbs,” wrote a coalition of consumer and free-market groups opposed to incandescent bulb bans in a comment letter addressed to the DOE last year.

The groups added that the estimates of the climate benefits of energy efficiency rules are “speculative, assumption-driven, and prone to bias in the hands of agencies with a regulatory agenda.”

Meanwhile, the DOE’s April 2022 rule reversed a Trump administration rule that sought to allow consumers to choose which products they want to purchase and protect incandescent bulbs. Former President Donald Trump opposed LED light bulb adoption and remarked in 2019 that they are not good, are frequently more expensive, and tend to make him “look orange.”

Environmental groups that opposed the actions of the Trump administration have cheered the Biden administration for cracking down on incandescent light bulbs. Energy efficiency advocate at the Natural Resources Defense Council, Joe Vukovich, said rules banning inefficient light bulbs were “long overdue.”

In the meantime, over the past several months, the DOE has unveiled new standards for various other appliances, including clothes washers, dishwashers, gas stoves, water heaters, and air conditioners. 

According to the current federal Unified Agenda, a government-wide semiannual list that highlights regulations agencies plan to finalize or propose within the next 12 months; the Biden administration is additionally moving forward with rules that could impact dozens of more appliances, including pool pumps, ceiling fans, consumer furnaces, battery chargers, and dehumidifiers.