Why Is One House Office Building Ditching Energy-Efficient Bulbs?

September 14, 2011 2:50 p.m.

Is the House GOP waging war against energy efficient lightbulbs in its own building?

The hallway on the first floor of the House Cannon building on Capitol Hill was noticeably brighter than the second floor for most of the day today. That’s because the Architect of the Capitol is replacing modern energy-efficient 150-watt lightbulbs (photo to left) with traditional 250-watt lightbulbs because an unknown member of Congress complained.A TPM reader first alerted us that maintenance workers were switching out the bulbs. Another person familiar with the bulb switch told TPM that “some congressman” complained that the hallways of Cannon were a bit dim for their liking, so it was out with the new, in with the old.

Given Republicans’ public disdain for energy-efficient lightbulbs and the new GOP majority’s earlier decision to remove biodegradable utensils and food containers from the House cafeteria, we thought we might have another Styrofoam cup situation on our hands, so TPM looked into it.

Nothing to see here, says the House architect.

“The lighting levels were identified as inadequate in the hallway and, as an interim measure, the light bulbs were swapped out temporarily,” said AOC spokeswoman Eva Malecki. “They will be replaced by LED light bulbs, which are even more energy efficient than CFLs.”

The first floor of Cannon made the switch on Tuesday. On Wednesday afternoon, maintenance workers were making their way through the second floor. A worker referred TPM’s questions to the Architect of the Capitol.

The “new” bulbs are made by General Electric. We’re told the energy-efficient bulbs wouldn’t be tossed, but will instead be reused throughout the Capitol.

Before we went to check out the situation for ourselves, a spokeswoman for the Architect of the Capitol told TPM that she could “almost guarantee” that energy-efficient lightbulbs weren’t being switched out for traditional ones. Subsequently, she said that its just a temporary measure.

According to a 2010 report, the energy-saving lighting saves 1.5 million kWh and $178,000 per year. As of December of last year, the Republicans were reportedly planning to keep the modern bulbs.

Energy-efficient lightbulbs — “the little, squiggly, pig-tailed ones” — have long been the subject of the GOP’s scorn. Take Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY):

“I think there should be some self-examination from the administration on the idea that you favor a woman’s right to an abortion, but you don’t favor a woman or a man’s right to choose what kind of light bulb, what kind of dishwasher, what kind of washing machine.”

House Republicans have opposed the “Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007” which they dubbed “a de facto ban on the incandescent light bulb.”

A July vote on “The Better Use of Light Bulbs Act” — which would repeal light bulb efficiency standards — failed to get the two-thirds majority it needed to pass the House

The Architect of the Capitol has continued to promote its energy saving measures, saying in a press release last month that they installed 30,000 energy-efficient light fixtures in 2010.

Get the day’s best political analysis, news and reporting from the TPM team delivered to your inbox every day with DayBreaker. Sign up here, it takes just a few seconds.

Masthead Masthead
Editor & Publisher:
Executive Editor:
Managing Editor:
Senior Editor:
Investigations Desk:
Senior Newswriters:
Editor at Large:
General Manager & General Counsel:
Executive Publisher:
Head of Product:
Director of Technology:
Publishing Associate:
Front-End Developer:
Senior Designer: