By Robert Kittle

COLUMBIA, S.C. — State lawmakers have filed a bill aimed at getting around a federal phase-out of some incandescent light bulbs starting next year. The bill says if light bulbs were made in South Carolina and sold only here, and made without significant parts from other states, the federal regulation would not apply because no interstate commerce would be involved.

“There are a huge number of people who do not like the CFLs, the fluorescent light bulbs, and they want to have a viable alternative,” says Rep. Bill Sandifer, R-Seneca, one of the co-sponsors of the bill.

A federal law passed by the Bush administration in 2007 will require 100 watt bulbs to have no more than 72 watts starting on January 1, 2012.  The wattage for 75 watt bulbs will be reduced to 53 watts on January 1, 2013, and 60 and 40 watt bulbs will be reduced on January 1, 2014.

The goal is to get people to save energy by using more energy-efficient bulbs, either the lower-wattage incandescent bulbs or compact fluorescent bulbs. But bill sponsor Rep. Dwight Loftis, R-Greenville, says the mercury in compact fluorescent bulbs makes them an environmental hazard. He says, “The extra disposal expense and that sort of thing, are you really saving energy or conserving energy when you take all things into consideration?”

An added bonus of the bill would be that, if it passes and attracts an incandescent bulb manufacturer to the state, it would create jobs.

Lighting store manager J.J. Mackey, of The Lite House in Columbia, says compact fluorescent bulbs do save energy. “Considerably, because you’re talking about a 13 watt (CFL) bulb is the equivalent of about a 60 watt (incandescent) bulb, so there’s a little over 75 percent savings. And they do last longer when you get good bulbs,” he says.

Kenneth Worthy of Columbia says he has CFLs throughout his home and loves them. “I think that they’re the best and, you know, they’re going to save you money in the long run,” he says.

But Rep. Loftis says, “I believe, and I think the support that this bill is getting demonstrates, that people want the alternative to have the type of lighting that they desire in their own homes.”