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Thomas Edison's great-grandson: Stop using incandescent lightbulbs

June 6, 2019
In The News

WASHINGTON — Thomas Edison’s great-grandson wants you to stop using the incandescent lightbulb.

On Thursday afternoon, Barry Edison Sloane, one of Thomas Edison’s great-grandchildren, took part in a press conference with Rep. Frank Pallone, D-N.J., to call on the Trump administration to stop a rollback of lightbulb efficiency standards that would have all but phased out the lightbulb Edison played a role in inventing. Pallone chairs the powerful House Energy and Commerce Committee, which has jurisdiction over the Department of Energy. 

Sloane slammed the rollback, saying, “It’s unacceptable that the Department of Energy now intends to disregard commonsense innovations that have already been embraced in 80 countries and the U.S. for over a decade. Edison would have agreed that, given the urgency climate change presents, this kind of action is like throwing gasoline on our burning house."

Edison is generally credited as one of the inventors who helped make incandescent lightbulbs commercially viable in the United States. He patented his designs for lightbulbs in 1879 and 1880, and went on to create the first modern electric utility when he opened the Pearl Street Station in New York City in 1882.

“This reckless rollback will lead to years of unnecessary electricity generation and carbon emissions – just to power inefficient and outdated lightbulbs,” said Pallone. “Trashing this important standard will also increase consumers’ electricity bills by allowing inefficient products to remain on the market, something that is absolutely unnecessary,”

Pallone told USA TODAY that he and Sloane were holding the press conference to “call out” the Trump administration for its regulatory rollback, though no legislation or lawsuits were planned at the time to stop the Department of Energy’s actions. According to Pallone's office, this regulatory rollback would "increase consumers’ electricity bills by $12 billion a year by the year 2025."

In March 2019, the Department of Energy announced that it planned to withdraw an Obama-era rule that would have effectively ended the sale of all incandescent bulbs — including “decorative” bulbs that had previously been exempt. Advocates of the policy rollback had argued the Obama rule was necessary for energy conservation. 

Lightbulb industry groups had opposed the Obama-era rules.

The National Electrical Manufacturers Association, which represents companies like Siemens, General Electric, and Signify, formerly Philips Lighting, wrote in a release when the Department of Energy issued its proposed rollback that “consumers, retailers, and manufacturers have, without government regulation, already driven energy savings in the general service lamp category far faster than anyone could have imagined just a few years ago.”

Edison’s descendants have been vocal, though, in their desire for technological change.

In an April 2019 New York Times op-ed, Barry Edison Sloane and J. Heywood Edison Sloane wrote that “Our great-grandfather’s lightbulb helped change the world. But it’s almost 140 years old and it’s time to modernize. Thomas Edison would have been the first to say so.”