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PolitiFact: Bachmann's light bulb claim is barely true

The statement

The federal government "now tells us which light bulbs to buy."

U.S. Rep. Michele Bachmann, R-Minn., in a response to the State of the Union address on Tuesday

The ruling

We've looked into light bulbs before, when PolitiFact Texas examined a similar statement by Texas Gov. Rick Perry.

What our Texas colleagues found: In 2007, Congress voted to improve the efficiency of light bulbs. President George W. Bush signed the Energy Independence and Security Act, which set energy efficiency standards for incandescent lamps (light bulbs), incandescent reflector lamps (track lighting in your kitchen, for example) and fluorescent lamps, according to a 2007 report from the Congressional Research Service.

In June 2009, President Barack Obama announced more changes for lighting standards. Starting in August 2012, fluorescent tube lamps and conventional incandescent reflector lamps must become more efficient.

PolitiFact Texas also found a June 2010 editorial in the Washington Times objecting to Federal Trade Commission-issued regulations of light bulb labels. The editorial said the regulations were ordered by Congress as part of its 2007 decision to force the more efficient, curlicue-shaped compact fluorescent light bulb "on a public that so far has refused to embrace it willingly."

Jen Stutsman, spokeswoman for the U.S. Department of Energy, told PolitiFact Texas in November that conventional incandescent bulbs as currently manufactured are not expected to meet the efficiency standards Congress set. However, the government expects manufacturers to improve incandescent technologies to meet the higher standards, or consumers will move to compact fluorescent light bulbs, LED technologies or halogens. She said new standards for 100-watt bulbs take effect January 2012. New standards for 75-watt bulbs start in 2013, and standards for 60- and 40-watt bulbs start in 2014.

Stutsman said the expected shifts aren't equivalent to the government telling Americans which light bulbs to use. "Under no circumstances does it say that a consumer must purchase a specific type of light bulb," she said.

So, is Washington telling us what kind of bulb to use?

Bachmann's statement carries an element of truth — but not much more. We rate it Barely True.

This ruling has been edited for print. For the full version — and to read other rulings — go to PolitiFact.com.

PolitiFact: Bachmann's light bulb claim is barely true 01/28/11 [Last modified: Friday, January 28, 2011 8:51pm]
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