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In the Mad House

Our children will enjoy in their homes electrical energy too cheap to meter.

— Lewis Strauss, Speech on atomic energy (1954)

Albert Einstein once said, insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result.  Republicans in the House would disagree with Mr. Einstein. They do it to make sure that the country knows what they are thinking.  They do not consider themselves to be insane. Some of us do.

The House of Representatives has devoted an astonishing number of hours to debating and trying to repeal what is commonly referred to as “Obamacare.” As of this writing, since becoming law on March 23, 2010, the House has voted 37 times to modify or completely abolish it.  The House deserves plaudits for its persistence if not its wisdom. Its persistence may be seen by some as a waste of the legislative body’s time but, as it turned out, those votes did not take away from its attention to other legislative matters since when not voting on health care the House was doing nothing of substantive significance. Since the vote to repeal or modify health care has been the most significant action in the House for many months and an activity of which, at least, the Republican members of that body are most proud, it was not surprising to hear House Speaker John Boehner cheerfully explain on CBS’s “Face the Nation” that “You’re going to see a lot more [votes to thwart Obamacare].” Given that somewhat dismal prospect (if one is not numbered among those who find that a productive use of the political body’s skills) it was reassuring to learn that there is one member of the House able to address something other than health care. That person is Marsha Blackburn (R. Tenn.).

The issue that Ms. Blackburn has demonstrated an interest in addressing is the movement of hot air.  Since that is her interest and since she is a member of Congress the immediate assumption is that she wanted to address the verbal flatulence produced by that body. That was not, sadly, the case.   The hot air that concerns her is the hot air that is circulated by the ceiling fan and it is that device that concerns her.

Ms. Blackburn’s interest in the topic was aroused because the Environmental Protection Agency has come out with 101 pages of regulations with the catchy name of “2013-03-08 Energy Conservation Standards Rulemaking Framework Document for Ceiling Fans and Ceiling Fan Light Kits Lights RIN: 1904-AC87.” Regulations pertaining to ceiling fans and their lights have not been updated since 2005. Since there is a greater awareness of the need for efficiency in all manner of things electric, it is no surprise that the proposed standards are more conservative than the existing standards and are designed to make the fans more efficient. Because the House has spent so much time on repealing the unrepealable, Ms. Blackburn has had adequate time to read the proposed regulations and has formed an opinion about them that she recently shared on the floor of the House.

A search of the Internet fails to disclose whether or not she believes in the existence of climate change but what her remarks make abundantly clear is that she does not like government regulations. Her particular concern is that if enacted, the regulations will drive up the price of fans thus harming the consumer even if helping the environment.  In a speech on the House floor she said:  “First, they [the government of which she’s a part] came for our healthcare, then they took away our light bulbs, and raided our nation’s most iconic guitar company-now they are coming after our ceiling fans.”   (The guitar raid to which she referred was a raid on Tennessee’s “Gibson Guitar Corp.” for alleged violations of the Lacy Act.) Bringing the proposed regulations to our attention was a great service since there is an outside chance that without her words, many of us would have completely overlooked the 101 pages in question.

Thanks to Ms. Blackburn’s attentiveness, the ceiling fan is protected from the EPA.  She and Todd Rokita (R-Ind.) added an amendment to the fiscal year 2014 energy-and-water appropriations bill that will prevent the Energy Department from using any money in that bill to implement or enforce energy efficient standards for ceiling fans and ceiling fan light kits.    That is great news and having dispensed with that issue, Ms. Blackburn and Mr. Rokita can rejoin their colleagues in focusing their attention on Obamacare.  In celebration of their success it would be nice if they could schedule a vote to repeal Obamacare before the five-week recess that begins August 3 and follows, by three weeks, the Fourth of July recess.

Christopher Brauchli is a lawyer living in Boulder, Colorado. He can be emailed at brauchli.56@post.harvard.edu.

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