Bulb Ban May Generate a Black Market

It's unclear if shadow sales will boom or be pursued by regulators.

A vintage-style incandescent light bulb, center, is shown with an LED light bulb, left, and a compact fluorescent (CFL) light bulb, right. Incandescent bulbs have been in use for more than 100 years.
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"If you're at the Justice Department or the Department of Energy, you look at this and think, 'What kind of press do I get if I send the cops after some eBay seller?'" says Bandow, a special assistant to President Ronald Reagan in the 1980s. "They would be wary of the press, they would not want to go after the 65-year-old retiree who amused himself by buying 1,000 bulbs before they were illegal and is selling them off in his retirement.

"Maybe if it looks like a really big operation, [if] this seems to be someone who must have a major illicit pipeline, maybe," he says.

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If there are high-volume sales for banished varieties, Bandow says, corporations may lean on politicians to rescind the rules.

And while the Department of Energy hasn't said if individual sellers will face penalties down the road, corporations almost certainly would be on the hook. In 2010, the DOE fined Westinghouse Lighting Corporation $50,000 for failing to comply with efficiency standards for fluorescent and compact fluorescent bulbs.

Spokespeople for the Environmental Protection Agency did not respond to a request for comment.

In many other countries, including Canada, Russia, China and members of the European Union, incandescent bulbs have been -- or will be -- phased out.

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