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Tea Party Accelerates Efficient Light Bulb Rollback

So, the CSR skeptics in the US decry the private sector’s role in market failures arguing that only the government has the capacity and the purview to solve (or at least mitigate) externalities like poor energy efficiency.

The recent chicanery surrounding energy/climate reform and now light bulbs are illuminating examples of why we cannot sit on our hands waiting for politicians to move the needle in the national sustainability agenda.

Here’s a recap of light bulb gate. Yep, I think it deserves a gate after The Inspired Economist forecast this populist uprising against better consumer technology.

First, US Representative Michele Bachmann (R-MN) broke with George W. Bush in 2008, drafing a bill that opposed the president’s plan to phase out the manufacturing of all incandescent light bulbs in the US by 2014 (she lost).

Then, the surge of Tea Party lawmakers that arrived in Washington in January decided to eventually scrap the former Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi’s Capitol greening initiative.

And finally, Representative Bachmann, on her way to making inefficient energy a major theme of her 2012 presidential stump speech, has rejuvenated her efforts to defeat the incandescent light bulb phase out.

But sadly, according to The New York Times,  aspiring presidential candidates are not the only ones who oppose lower electricity bills:

“I do care about my carbon footprint, not to mention my light bill,” said Dana Carpender, a cookbook author in Bloomington, Ind. “But unless something dramatic happens to bring down the cost of alternatives, I will be stashing away a pile of incandescents.”

While political winds will always swirl around consumer issues with implicit environmental implications, Ms. Carpender probably makes a good point: Why are we phasing out incandescents if their replacements (CFL, LEDs) are deemed inferior and too expensive?

The answer is that business MUST see this noise as a market opportunity. Many people with friendly green consumer predilections loath CFLs given their harsh lumen, high price and concerns over mercury disposal. American firms like GE can do better.

We can’t let the hijacked Congress continue to trap us with Industrial Revolution-era lighting technology.

Business–manufacturers like GE and retailers like Wal-Mart–must lead. And that starts by winning the PR battle over suitable replacements to incandescent bulbs.

Image credit by hbimedialibrary via Flickr under a CC license

Written by Lane Jost

A lifelong conservationist, angler, gardener and writer, Lane is a Corporate Responsibility strategy consultant based in Chicago, where he currently works a CR consultant for PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC).

Prior to joining PwC, Lane was a global sustainability performance and stakeholder engagement specialist for Sodexo North America. He has experience in microfinance program evaluation at Grameen Foundation. A former President of the Net Impact Chapter at the University of California, San Diego (UCSD), Lane has a master's in International Development Economics from the School of International Relations and Pacific Studies at UCSD (IR/PS) and a bachelor's in history and international studies from Kenyon College. Prior to working in the sustainable business sphere, Lane spent six years as a communications and marketing professional focusing on arts and culture in New York City, where his work included the creation of the jazz website gothamjazz.com and serving as the publicist for the New York Philharmonic.

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