What if they banned a light bulb and nobody cared? Given all the fireworks over the incandescent light bulb phaseout that began earlier this year, there should be another round of outrage over the July 14 deadline for phasing out another highly popular type of light bulb, the T-12 fluorescent tube. But nope, not a peep. Part of the reason could be that the original deadline has been extended, but still, you’d expect someone to at least set off an M-80 or two. Representative Bachmann? Mr. Limbaugh? Anyone?
Phasing Out the T-12 Light Bulb
The July 14 deadline refers to new federal standards for the ubiquitous, four-foot-long fluorescent tubes found in millions of schools, offices, warehouses, factories, retail stores and other establishments, along with untold millions of home workshops.
As with the incandescent light bulb “ban” that stirred so many passions among so many conservative political leaders and pundits, there is no direct ban on using the old bulbs. Once the deadline goes into effect, the old bulbs can no longer be imported and they cannot be manufactured or sold domestically
Also, as with incandescent lighting, the primary reason for phasing out the T-12 is to shift the lighting industry into new energy efficient technologies.
A Long Road to Better Light Bulbs
The new T-12 standards date back to 1992, with amendments to the Energy Policy and Conservation Act (not to be confused with the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007, which includes the new incandescent standards).
The 1992 amendments directed the Department of Energy to conduct reviews and publish new standards as needed. Those determinations were made in 2009 with a deadline of July 14, 2012.
According to a backgrounder provided to CleanTechnica by the Department of Energy, the deadline was extended when a supply issue arose over rare earth oxides, which are key materials in the new technology. China controls more than 95 percent of the global supply, and in 2010 it changed its export quotas, leading to a significant price increase.
Philips Lighting Company, GE Lighting, Osram Sylvania, and Ushio America all applied for extensions, which were granted with the new deadline of July 14, 2014.
China will most likely continue to dominate the global market, but the Department of Energy anticipates that the two-year extension will buy time to develop new technologies that require less rare earth material, and to develop new sources including the recycling stream.
In the meantime, T-12 aficionados are advised that this might be a good time to switch over to the smaller T-8, which according to the Department of Energy “provides a rich source of lighting that delivers a high lumen package, a high CRI (color rendering index) rating and exceptional energy efficiency.”