In America there is always a knee-jerk reaction - rarely favorable - to government telling its citizens how to live. In a nation born in revolution, that's hardly a surprise. So it is with an effort to repeal part of the 2007 energy bill that was passed in bipartisan fashion and signed by then-President George W. Bush to begin phasing out traditional, energy-gobbling light bulbs.

In America there is always a knee-jerk reaction - rarely favorable - to government telling its citizens how to live. In a nation born in revolution, that's hardly a surprise.


So it is with an effort to repeal part of the 2007 energy bill that was passed in bipartisan fashion and signed by then-President George W. Bush to begin phasing out traditional, energy-gobbling light bulbs. That law did not ban incandescent bulbs, as widely misreported, but required new lighting products to use 25 percent less energy beginning in 2012, 65 percent less by 2020. Some Republicans are now framing the law as a liberal attack on personal liberties, which is nonsense - Washington's most prominent current export - as verified by pulling the votes from 2007. At this writing, the House was preparing to vote on the Better Use of Light Bulbs Act, sponsored by Rep. Joe Barton, R-Texas - where else? - that would turn back the clock.


However it turns out, no one should kid himself: This issue is less about personal freedoms than presumed political advantage. Mandate or not, there's little doubting the wisdom of converting to more energy-efficient products that may be a bit more expensive up front but net a significant savings over time in less energy consumption - you'll pay more at the store but less when you get your Ameren bill; that produce less pollution - with a collective energy savings reportedly equal to some 30 power plants; and that do not put U.S. industries at a competitive disadvantage - U.S. bulb manufacturers such as General Electric and Sylvania have not objected.


To be sure, Uncle Sam sometimes interferes where he shouldn't. The insistence on water-saving toilets, for example, initially backfired in that they often required two flushes instead of one. Ideally, American consumers would come to these conclusions on their own without any federal nudge.


On the flip side, Thomas Edison was a brilliant inventor, but his incandescent bulb produced considerably more heat than light, and the technology has improved a bit since 1879. If the GOP and any Democrats who wish to join them - a two-thirds vote is required in the House to repeal, then it's on to the Senate - want to portray themselves as anti-science, Flat Earth Society-types, that's their prerogative, but in a nation that empties the shelves of the newest gadgets faster than they can come off the assembly line, there's a risk to that. Energy conservation mandates are far from unheard of in this country, routinely approved by presidents Republican and Democrat alike. Richard Nixon signed into law a 55 mph national speed limit in 1974. By comparison this seems a rather timid move that arguably most Americans won't much notice.


Ultimately, what is liberal or conservative about energy independence? Given the enormous cost in blood and treasure this nation has expended due to the lack of it, and with so much focus on the national debt, it's a wonder anybody would be opposed to moving in that direction.


Journal Star