Incandescents are nothing but trouble. You burn your fingers when you touch them, they burn out all the time, and they waste your money. Compact fluorescents are pretty good these days and they’ll save you piles of money. LED lights are incredibly good these days, and they’ll also save you money.
I understand why people didn’t like compact fluorescents back in the 1980s. They didn’t start reliably, they flickered, and maybe the colors were a bit off. But, [get with it, folks,] that was 25 years ago. Technology has marched on and compact fluorescent (CCFL) bulbs have improved. And, now they’ve being replaced by LED lamps; LEDs give you better colors, instant start, and better efficiency.
I generally approve of the argument that we should let the market decide. Or, rather, I would approve of it if there were a carbon tax so that users of incandescent light bulbs would pay for the environmental damage they are doing. [Please, run that coal fired power plant harder: I just love breathing the fumes! Yes, please put more CO2 into the atmosphere: I know that for some magic reason it won’t affect the climate.] Acid rain and CO2 are produced, and they are inflicted on people who didn’t buy the light bulb. And, coal ash is nasty stuff (mildly radioactive, too), and needs to be properly dealt with. Remember, the free market works really well when you pay all the costs and get all the benefits of your purchase. However, free markets don’t make the right decision if the costs are spread out widely and the benefits are captured by one person: that’s the “tragedy of the commons”.
There are also safety issues. A burned-out light bulb is a fragile glass shell, stressed by the vacuum inside, with an uninsulated 110V wire inside. Naturally, some people break the bulb or stick their finger in the socket and electrocute themselves. We’re all adults here [unless you let your kids change your light bulbs] so one can make the argument that such people get what they asked for. The trouble is, we know that people are really bad at estimating the probabilities of rare events (e.g. getting electrocuted), so this might be a case of market failure because the purchaser does not/cannot really understand and evaluate the costs. I’ll bet you don’t even know how many people get electrocuted when changing a light bulb [and neither do I]. Consequently, it’s hard to argue that we incorporate the real risk (whatever it may be) into our buying decision.
So, I don’t understand why any sensible person wants an incandescent light bulb. Consequently, I don’t understand why anyone would want to fight against the efficiency standards. But, apparently part of Congress thought it was important. [Weird.] The original articles I ran across were here and here.