Bush Fumbles Hand-Off to Obama on Energy Efficiency Standard


January 15, 2009

Andrew deLaski, ASAP, 617-363-9470
Steve Nadel, ACEEE, 202-507-4000

Glee Murray, ACEEE, 202-507-401

New Lighting Standards Could Be Biggest Energy Saver Ever
But Proposal Falls Short

Washington D.C. (Jan. 15, 2009): Lighting efficiency standards proposed in the Bush administration’s final days leave huge energy and dollar savings, as well as huge pollution reductions, on the table, according to a coalition of energy efficiency organizations. The proposed new efficiency standards would cover the ubiquitous fluorescent tube lamps found in nearly every office and the equally common cone-shaped reflector lamps found in homes and businesses. The coalition, comprised of the Appliance Standards Awareness Project (ASAP), the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy (ACEEE), the Alliance to Save Energy (ASE), and the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), today urged the incoming Obama administration to take quick action to strengthen the new standards.

The lighting standard is the largest potential energy saver among 25 new appliance efficiency standards that the Obama administration must complete during the next four years under court orders and congressional deadlines.  By comparison, the Bush administration finished just four in eight years.

“On day one, President Obama can start to meet his energy efficiency promises by fixing these standards,” said Andrew deLaski, ASAP Executive Director. “President Bush fumbled the hand-off, but President Obama still can score big energy and dollar savings for America with a strong standard.”

President-elect Obama has committed to make “America the most energy-efficient country in the world” and specifically vowed to overhaul the federal efficiency standards effort during the campaign. He committed to reducing U.S. electricity use by 15% by 2020 and to meeting part of the goal with improved efficiency standards. 

“Under President Bush, we’ve repeatedly heard, 'No, we can’t,' when it comes to energy efficiency,” said Steven Nadel, ACEEE Executive Director. “We expect the new administration’s response to be, ‘Yes, we can.’”

The new administration inherits the flawed proposal on Inauguration Day and must issue final standards by the end of June. The final standards must be based on the proposed rule and input received during a 60-day comment period. The new administration could issue a new or supplementary proposed rule if necessary to broaden the range of possible outcomes for the final standard.

“Strong lighting efficiency standards would have been a valuable parting gift to the nation from the Bush administration of money and energy savings,” said Jeffrey Harris, ASE Vice President for Programs. “We urge the incoming Obama administration to begin making energy efficiency the cornerstone of our strategy to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by issuing much tougher lighting standards.”

“Standards spur more investment in energy efficiency and pay for themselves many times over,” said Lane Burt, NRDC Energy Policy Analyst. “It makes no sense to turn away from guaranteed returns in lighting efficiency during an economic crisis.  The Bush Administration is leaving as much as $26 billion on the table that could go into the pockets of business owners and consumers.”

In the proposal, posted to the Department of Energy’s (DOE) Web site yesterday, the outgoing administration said “no” to higher standards for general service fluorescent lamps that, according to the agency’s own analysis, would save more energy, save more money, and avoid more pollution than the standards proposed. DOE also said “no” to requests that the agency cover the most common type of reflector lamps, called BR lamps in the trade, with the new standards. These exempted BR lamps account for about 40% of total reflector lamp sales according to DOE.

Also according to DOE, about 500 million general service fluorescent lamps are sold annually in the U.S. and mostly are used to light offices. About 265 million reflector lamps are sold each year, split between homes and commercial buildings such as retail stores. DOE found that, for general service fluorescent lamps, standards higher than those proposed would, over thirty years, increase total energy savings by 1.3 to 5.9 quads of electricity (i.e., 130 to 570 billion kilowatt-hours or enough to meet the total power needs of 10 to 50 million U.S. households), increase net economic savings for businesses and consumers by another $11 to $26 billion, and reduce carbon dioxide emissions by another 56 to 285 million metric tons (an amount equal to that emitted by about 10 to 52 million cars in a year). According to ACEEE, covering the BR lamps too would increase savings by another 1.3 quads of electricity (another 130 billion kilowatt-hours) and net consumers about $4 billion in savings over thirty years.

The efficiency coalition did find some good news in the Bush proposal with respect to the efficiency level proposed for reflector lamps.

“DOE is on the right track with the efficiency levels for reflector lamps,” said Nadel, “though they may be able to go a little higher than the level proposed.” He emphasized that the big issue for reflectors is making sure the most common variety, the BR lamps, are affected by the new standards.

This standard is the last proposed in a series of disappointments from the Bush administration. Furnace standards issued in 2007 are so weak that 99 percent of products already comply — even though the Bush standards are not effective until 2015. Utility transformer standards, also issued in 2007, are weaker than levels supported by the utility industry itself and one of the biggest transformer manufacturers. States and advocacy organizations have sued DOE to force reconsideration of those two standards. DOE also rejected home heating boilers standards in 2007 that had been jointly recommended by the boiler makers and environmental and efficiency organizations. Congress later overturned DOE’s rejection by enacting those consensus standards.

The DOE proposal is posted at http://www1.eere.energy.gov/buildings/appliance_standards/residential/incandescent_lamps_nopr.html.


The Appliance Standards Awareness Project is dedicated to increasing awareness of and support for cost-effective appliance and equipment efficiency standards. Founded in 1998, ASAP is led by a steering committee that includes representatives from the environmental community, consumer groups, utilities and state government. See www.standardsASAP.org.

The American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy is an independent, nonprofit organization dedicated to advancing energy efficiency as a means of promoting economic prosperity, energy security, and environmental protection. For information about ACEEE and its programs, publications, and conferences, contact ACEEE, 529 14th Street N.W., Suite 600, Washington, D.C.20045 or visit www.aceee.org.

The Alliance to Save Energy is a coalition of prominent business, government, environmental, and consumer leaders who promote the efficient and clean use of energy worldwide to benefit consumers, the environment, economy, and national security.

The Natural Resources Defense Council is a national, nonprofit organization of scientists, lawyers and environmental specialists dedicated to protecting public health and the environment. Founded in 1970, NRDC has 1.2 million members and online activists, served from offices in New York, Washington, Chicago, Los Angeles, San Francisco and Beijing.