Some households just can’t afford to save energy. When the upfront costs of new light bulbs exceed the savings from using less electricity, people will stick with the old ones.

That also appears to be the case for the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE). In spite of supporting regulations that will force all Americans to switch out old light bulbs for more expensive new ones (the good old incandescent bulb will be illegal in 2012), it seems that the DOE itself finds that it’s too much trouble and too expensive to adopt the latest energy-saving technologies.

An audit of 96 buildings by the department’s inspector general reveals, “For the most part, sites either did not use, or made limited use of, innovative lighting technologies developed in the Department’s research laboratories.” The DOE is not even availing itself of the technologies that, as part of its mission, it helped create. The primary impediment cited was a “lack of resources.” In other words, the energy savings were too expensive.

The DOE is cheerleader for parsimony in energy consumption for everybody else. Yet it still hasn’t outfitted a majority of its own buildings with occupancy sensors and the latest lighting technology. Maybe American households should also be allowed to choose which “money-saving” technologies they want to adopt and when they want to adopt them.

Cameron Parker is currently a member of the Young Leaders Program at the Heritage Foundation. For more information on interning at Heritage, please visit: