Mark Lennihan / AP
If you bought a light bulb a few years ago, you might be confused. Those controversial Curly Cue that were up to date not too long ago? Path. (Or harder to find.) Thanks to a 2007 law signed by President George W. Bush, today's shelves are largely populated with LED bulbs that are more like the traditional pear-shaped incandescent version, but consume only one-fifth of the energy.
A second wave of lightbulb changes should take place. Now, the Trump government wants to lift an Obama-era ruling that aims to make a variety of special light bulbs more energy-efficient.
These are light bulbs such as decorative globes used in bathrooms, reflectors in recessed candlelight lights and three-way incandescent bulbs. The Natural Resources Defense Council says that together this is about 2.7 billion light sockets, almost half of the conventional sockets used in the US.
A pointless relapse or illegal rule?
At At the end of the Obama administration, the Department of Energy decided that these special bulbs should also be subject to efficiency requirements under the 2007 law. The lighting industry had filed an objection and sued for reversing the decision.
"In our view, DOE exceeded its powers," says Clark Silcox, General Counsel of the National Electrical Manufacturers Association.
NEMA argued that Congress never intended to apply to all of these other incandescent bulbs. After President Trump took office, the Energy Department agreed and suggested reversing the agency's earlier decision.
"I just do not understand the reasons for turning back the clock," says Jason Hartke, president of the Alliance to Save Energy. "There are not many people screaming for outdated light bulbs that consume four or five times as much energy."
Critics say that when the reversal is complete, it will be higher Energy costs to consumers and more pollution.
"Now we have to generate something 25 large coal-fired power plants bring additional electricity when this rollback passes," says Noah Horowitz, Senior Scientist at NRDC. He calls it a bad idea and says it's illegal.
NEMA disagrees and rejects the term "rollback". A relapse in terms of energy efficiency requirements is not permitted under federal law.
"The Department of Energy can not move back illegally from a place where it could not be legal," argues Silcox.
Possibly a court will decide who is right. Environmental companies promise to sue as the changes in the Obama era are reversed.
The lighting industry rejects the claim that it wants to continue selling existing types of incandescent lamps, even if they consume more energy. Silcox says companies are switching to more efficient lighting, focusing on "What the consumer wants and makes sure consumer satisfaction is high."
A Hard Lesson from the Curly Cues
The industry learned a hard lesson after the first generation of this curly, compact fluorescent lamp was released.
"Consumers basically did not like them, they did not buy them, they complained about it, we heard it loud and clear," said Jennifer Dolin, director of government affairs and sustainability at LEDVANCE who manufactures Sylvania light bulbs.
Dolin says the industry wants to make sure they get the LED versions of all other types of light bulbs perfected onions before they are put on the market. She says that more efficient light bulbs are coming.
"The future of lighting is LED, there is no doubt about it and we see it in the market," she says. "We see consumers switching to LEDs at a much faster speed than we ever expected."
Given the increasing impact of climate change, environmental groups believe that this regulation is now needed to make the transition faster.  As the anticipated court battle unfolds, the Environmental Defense Fund hopes that retailers will take the lead and decide to store shelves with only energy-saving bulbs. So far, no retailer has publicly committed to it.