Q. How many votes does it take to screw the American consumer?
A. Fifty-two more than the Republicans had this week.
On Tuesday, the House defeated the Better Use of Light Bulbs Act - BULB, get it? - the Republican Party's latest offensive in its War on the 21st Century. The BULB Act would have repealed the part of a 2007 law that imposes more stringent energy efficiency standards for light bulbs.
Right-wing politicians and pundits managed to whip up a considerable frenzy about this silly non-issue among their chronically enraged and fearful followers.
They claimed the 2007 law "bans" incandescent bulbs (the old-fashioned kind, whose basic design hasn't changed since Thomas Edison built the first one 1879) and "forces" everybody to buy those new-fangled compact fluorescent jobs. It doesn't do either - it just requires light bulbs to be 25% more efficient. (A number of manufacturers already are producing incandescent bulbs that meet the new standard.)
They claimed the new bulbs contain dangerous amounts of mercury. They don't - the quantity in one compact fluorescent is only an infinitesimal fraction of what's inside the typical thermometer used to take people's temperatures. And LED bulbs don't contain any.
Most stridently of all, they claimed the new standard - signed into law by that notorious socialist, President George W. Bush - represent "government overreaching" and another egregious assault on personal freedom by those pointy-headed pinkos in Washington.
But one look at the special interest groups lined up in support of this bill, including electric power utilities and oil producers, reveals that it really was about the freedom of certain corporations to keep making juicy profits. Light bulbs account for 10% to 15% of total energy use in the typical home. It's been calculated that the tighter standard will save Americans $600 million a year on their energy bills - and besides that, the fluorescents last longer.
Due to a procedural quirk, the Republicans needed a two-thirds majority to pass the BULB Act on Tuesday. They fell 52 votes short, with 228 Republicans - including our district's pride and joy, Greg Walden - voting for it and five Democrats joining them. But they're likely to try to pass it later by a simple majority. For wasting their colleagues' time on this nonsense, and for manipulating their constituents with a deceptive scare campaign, we're giving Walden & Co. THE BOOT.
However, we don't want to appear totally insensitive to the Republicans' plight. If they're really uncomfortable with modern technologies and prefer to use antiquated and excessively expensive ones for lighting their homes and offices, the federal government shouldn't stand in their way.
What the hell, if kerosene lanterns were good enough for our great-grandparents, they're good enough for us. For that matter, what's wrong with good old-fashioned whale oil lamps?
And don't fall for that liberal-commie-enviro-weenie propaganda about whales being endangered - there are plenty of 'em swimming around out there. Harpoon here, harpoon now!