Regular Fox News viewers know that the network has spent months hyping a nonexistent "light bulb ban" going into effect on Jan. 1, 2012, that they claim would outlaw incandescent light bulbs. The law in question -- signed by former President George W. Bush -- does not outlaw incandescent bulbs, only inefficient ones.
Yet Fox has never acknowledged that its war on the "light bulb ban" was phony -- until today. With no self-awareness, Fox & Friends hyped a bulb that reportedly meets the new efficiency standards -- and it happens to be an incandescent.
First the co-hosts tried to claim that one inventor of an efficient incandescent light bulb is taking advantage of a "loophole" in the new laws:
STEVE DOOCY (co-host): All right -- we have told you over the last number of months about how January 1, the federal government was going to stop the regular incandescent light bulbs from being sold. Well, I believe there's been a one-year extension because so many of you have been outraged. Nonetheless, it's supposed to take effect in a year. There's a guy from South Hackensack, New Jersey, whose family actually has a connection to the guy who invented the light bulb. He's found a loophole in the law to come up with an incandescent light bulb that we could use going forward.
CLAYTON MORRIS (guest host): Yeah, his name is Larry Birnbaum. And he has decided, you know what, I'm going to go around this loophole, and decided to create my own new version of the incandescent light bulb. There's American ingenuity for you.
GRETCHEN CARLSON (co-host): It's called Newcandescent.
MORRIS: Newcandescent. So it's not the old-candescent.
CARLSON: And, so, apparently his grandfather was a master electrician, Samuel Birnbaum, he spent time with Thomas Edison himself, so he might know a few things about electricity, light bulbs, etc. The Newcandescent is different -- it slips though the loophole in the law that allows the manufacture of rough purpose, whatever that means, incandescent bulbs that could survive.
DOOCY: That means -- rough purpose is, you know, like a light bulb in a subway station. It's going to be -- it's a little tougher than being in your refrigerator or something like that.
Not surprisingly, the co-hosts bungled the story: There is no "loophole" that "allows ... incandescent bulbs [to survive]," because the law itself doesn't outlaw incandescent bulbs. Here's part of the applicable section of the Energy Independence and Security Act:
Subtitle B: Lighting Energy Efficiency - (Sec. 321) Amends EPCA to prescribe energy efficiency standards for general service incandescent lamps, rough service lamps, and other designated lamps.
(Sec. 322) Sets forth minimum energy efficiency standards for incandescent reflector lamps.
The law sets forth efficiency standards for, among other types of bulbs, "general service incandescent lamps." It does not outlaw them.
The co-hosts are mixing up the details about Birnbaum's bulbs -- they're not new, but being repurposed. As a recent article on NorthJersey.com explains, Birnbaum indeed, some time ago, developed the "Newcandescent bulb" for "rough" use, but he now "wants to sell [the bulbs] for everyday use." The article continues, "He compared it to a doctor prescribing a drug for one condition, even though it was originally developed for another."
And Birnbaum is far from the first person, as the Fox & Friends segment suggests, to work on creating an efficient incandescent bulb. The New York Times reported more than two years ago that GE, Sylvania, and Philips were all developing incandescent bulbs that would meet the new standards:
When Congress passed a new energy law two years ago, obituaries were written for the incandescent light bulb.
But as it turns out, the obituaries were premature.
Indeed, the incandescent bulb is turning into a case study of the way government mandates can spur innovation.
"There's a massive misperception that incandescents are going away quickly," said Chris Calwell, a researcher with Ecos Consulting who studies the bulb market. "There have been more incandescent innovations in the last three years than in the last two decades."
With the new efficiency standards, experts predict more companies will develop specialized reflective coatings for incandescents. The big three lighting companies -- General Electric, Osram Sylvania and Philips -- are all working on the technology, as is Auer Lighting of Germany and Toshiba of Japan.
As of February this year, GE was selling an incandescent halogen bulb that "looks like the century-old and beloved incandescent bulb, produces nearly the same light output but operates up to 22 percent more efficiently."
And bulb vendor Sylvania has this chart on its website, under the "Light Bulb Laws" section, that includes a few incandescent bulbs among its recommended replacements for after the final round of efficiency standards go into place:
Morris concluded the segment, immune to the irony, by praising Birnbaum's bulbs for being "cheap" and "long-lasting":
MORRIS: And they're long lasting, too. That's a key. So cheap and long-lasting -- that may just be the answer everyone's been looking for in this whole debate.
DOOCY: Way to go, Larry.
Of course, that's the whole point of the law: to encourage innovations in "cheap" and "long-lasting" energy-efficient bulbs. But unfortunately, too many of Fox's viewers don't know that, thanks to the phony outrage Fox has drummed up over a fictional bulb "ban."