Dim Bulbs at Obama Energy Dept. Award $10M Prize to Maker of $50 Light Bulb; Will Media Report?

Imagine if you will that President Bush were in the Oval Office now, facing reelection with unemployment above 8 percent and gas prices as high as they are right now. Now also imagine that the Bush Energy Department granted a $10 million award to the maker of a $50 LED light bulb, because, as Bush's energy secretary gushed, it's "affordable for American families."

The media would, predictably and quite reasonably, be apoplectic. But alas, this is happening under President Obama's watch, as the Washington Post's Peter Whoriskey reported today.  Oh, and did I mention that the winning bulb competes against  much cheaper LED light bulbs than the one that won the government's affordability award?:

Energy Secretary Steven Chu said the prize would spur industry to offer the costly bulbs, known as LEDs, at prices “affordable for American families.” There was also a “Buy America” component. Portions of the bulb would have to be made in the United States.

Now the winning bulb is on the market.

The price is $50.

Retailers said the bulb, made by Philips, is likely to be too pricey to have broad appeal. Similar LED bulbs are less than half the cost.

“I don’t want to say it’s exorbitant, but if a customer is only looking at the price, they could come to that conclusion,” said Brad Paulsen, merchant for the light-bulb category at Home Depot, the largest U.S. seller of light bulbs. “This is a Cadillac product, and that’s why you have a premium on it.”

How the expensive bulb won a $10 million government prize meant to foster energy-efficient affordability is one of the curiosities that arise as the country undergoes a massive, mandated turnover from traditional incandescent lamps to more energy-
efficient ones.

So our tax dollars, $10 million of them, are going to a light bulb that's competing with cheaper alternatives of the same technology?

Kudos to the Post for covering this on the front page today. It now remains to be seen what, if anything, the rest of the media do to make this a kitchen table issue to the American voting public.

Ken Shepherd
Ken Shepherd
Ken Shepherd is the Managing Editor for NewsBusters