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Opening Arguments

Turn out the lights

Sad but true, I think:

Say goodbye to the regular light bulb this New Year.

For more than a century, the traditional incandescent bulb was the symbol of American innovation. Starting Jan. 1, the famous bulb is illegal to manufacture in the U.S., and it has become a fitting symbol for the collusion of big business and big government.

The 2007 Energy Bill, a stew of regulations and subsidies, set mandatory efficiency standards for most light bulbs. Any bulbs that couldn't produce a given brightness at the specified energy input would be illegal. That meant the 25-cent bulbs most Americans used in nearly every socket of their home would be outlawed.

People often assume green regulations like this represent the triumph of environmental activists trying to save the plant. That’s rarely the case, and it wasn't here. Light bulb manufacturers whole-heartedly supported the efficiency standards. General Electric, Sylvania and Philips — the three companies that dominated the bulb industry — all backed the 2007 rule, while opposing proposals to explicitly outlaw incandescent technology (thus leaving the door open for high-efficiency incandescents).

Whether we send Republicans or Democrats to Washingon, crony capitalism just goes on and on. So I guess that means all those incandescents I'm hoarding (I think I've got enough for at least five years) make me a crusader for ethical government rather than an anti-evironmental wacko. Whew!