01 July 2010

Turn Out the Lights

Associated Press

In two years, U.S. consumers will get a rude shock when the federal government's ban on traditional incandescent light bulbs goes into effect. But industrial communities in the Midwest and elsewhere are already feeling pain as light-bulb manufacturer General Electric shuts down plants and moves jobs to China in preparation for production of Washington's preferred alternative: expensive compact fluorescent bulbs.

The shutdowns are happening in industrial areas already hammered by the Great Recession. General Electric shut down its Niles, Ohio light bulb plant in April, throwing 110 union laborers out of work. Two similar plants in Lexington, Kentucky (union) and Winchester, Virginia (non-union) are also slated to close this year at a combined cost of over 300 jobs.

"Government did us in," Winchester worker Dwayne Madigan told The Washington Examiner. He made bulbs that became a symbol of the global warming crisis -- a crisis that has been exposed as a fraud after a year of Climategate and a decade of flat temperatures. But the regulations march on, leaving jobs in their wake.

"Market decline for incandescent types of bulbs has accelerated with governments around the world setting new standards for efficiency," said Roy Wilson, general manager of GE's North America Lighting Manufacturing. GE lobbied for the bulb ban and will ship jobs offshore to make new compact fluorescents

Washington Democrats have long argued that green is the color of new jobs. In fact, green is red as low cost Red China will be the beneficiary of the new laws.

The federal mandate at issue was passed as part of the 2007 energy bill requiring all bulbs - beginning in 2012 - to meet high efficiency standards. Rather than create jobs, the mandate has accelerated GE's plans to shutter older factories and move them offshore even as industrial America struggles to emerge from recession. In Ohio, the unemployment rate is an above-national-average 11 percent.

For the law's supporters, the clear connection between green mandates and exported jobs is a problem.

In Niles, Ohio, a spokeswoman for Rep. Tim Ryan, a Democrat, says the congressman supports the regulations even though they have cost local jobs. She says Ryan supports "efficiency and green measures that encourage sustainability" that will eventually bring new jobs. She sites some new windmill startups in the area, but they are -- like other green technologies -- entirely dependent on government subsidies.

The GE plant made a popular consumer product with a sustainable, profitable business model. Until the government outlawed it.

The alliance of Big Government and Big Industry sending jobs to China is not lost on workers at the Winchester plant. Why did GE, founded by Thomas Edison, support a bill that killed the traditional bulb? It burnishes the company's "green" image ("eco-magination" is GE's initiativve) but it also allows them to charge more for bulbs, save on labor, and take advantage of China's lower regulatory burdens given the problem of fluorescents decidedly un-green use of mercury. The Times of London repots that "large numbers of Chinese workers have been poisoned by mercury, which forms part of the compact fluorescent light bulbs."

The lost jobs are more evidence that Democrats have betrayed their core labor constituency. "I live paycheck to paycheck," one soon-to-be-jobless Winchester employee told The Examiner.

These workers are victims of the Green Revolution - a revolution their employer and their government are forcing into American homes.

Henry Payne is editor of The Michigan View

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