Energy saving costs you dear, thanks to the European Commission

The European Commission has caved in to pressure from industry and extended by a year the current 66% import duty on low-energy lightbulbs made in China. This despite the Commission urging European citizens to switch from wasteful filament bulbs.

EU trade commissioner Peter Mandelson had previously indicated that the tariff would be scrapped, but intensive lobbying from German lightbulb manufacturer Osram looking to protect its near monopoly position in the EU market resulted in the extension announced yesterday.

The Commission argues that the import tariff is justified by “overall community interest”, and says that European producers need a sufficient transition period to prepare for any change in the market. “We obviously want what is best for European consumers but on the basis of fair trade rules,” said Mandelson’s spokesman, who added that the decision would not lead to higher prices as it represents a continuation of the current situation.

Good grief! We already pay through the nose for energy-efficient bulbs, and the Commission tries to sell us a blatantly protectionist policy on the grounds that we won’t have to pay more. Brilliant logic. I thought the EU is supposed to be about liberal democracy and free trade, so why are we providing state aid to a European manufacturer that cannot get its act together?