13 Jan 2014

Light Bulb Ban: Crony Capitalism in its Worst Form


AEI
describes how private industry used government force to kill the traditional light bulb for higher profits.

The [incandescent bulb] ban is crony capitalism in its most seductive form—when it’s disguised as green. Major light bulb manufacturers supported the ban from the outset. The profit margin on old-style bulbs was pitifully low, and consumers just weren’t buying the higher-margin efficiency bulbs. New standards were needed, a lobbyist for the National Electrical Manufacturing Association told Congress in 2007, “in order to further educate consumers on the benefits of energy-efficient products.”

So Philips Electronics and other manufacturers joined with environmental groups to push for tighter lighting standards. As the New York Times Magazine explained in 2011, “Philips told its environmental allies it was well positioned to capitalize on the transition to new technologies and wanted to get ahead of an efficiency movement that was gaining momentum abroad and in states like California.” After much negotiation, a classic “bootleggers-and-Baptists” coalition was born. Industry and environmental groups agreed to endorse legislation to increase lighting efficiency by 25 to 30 percent.

The light-bulb ban is an example of how political coalitions are formed to force regulations on the general public that benefit a few large producers. A recent survey found that six out of every ten Americans are still in the dark about the latest bulb ban. Meanwhile, the dimwitted light-bulb policy just became the law of the land. The lesson here is straightforward: When industry and environmental groups claim that a regulation will solve all problems, consumers beware. It’s probably green cronyism in disguise.

Hat tip to Bird Dog.

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