Saturday, November 19, 2011

The Great Light Bulb War

In 2007  the Energy Independence and Security Act was adopted. That Law in part, phased out the use of incandescent bulbs which were to be replaced by more efficient fluorescent bulbs (CFLs) or the even more efficient light emitting diodes (LEDs).

Recently the Republican members of Congress (including our Connie Mack) voted to repeal this portion of the law, and the Republican controlled Texas legislature with the support of its Republican Governor, passed a statute to allow Texans to continue to buy incandescent bulbs despite federal law.

This seemed strange since the Federal Act was passed with broad Republican support and was signed into law by President George W Bush. After eliminating provisions raising taxes on oil companies the Act passed in the House 314 to 100 and in the Senate 86 to 8.

Their position NOW is that the government has no right to tell us what kind of light bulbs to buy.

In fact it should not be necessary to tell us what kind of light bulbs to buy. CFLs are four times more efficient and last up to ten years longer than incandescent.  While initially they cost a bit more (the price has been falling since production was ramped up and competition increased) over the long run they save us lots of money. For example an 18 watt CFL used in place of a 75 watt incandescent will provide the same amount of light and save you about $45 over its lifetime.

 Reducing electricity consumption reduces CO2 emissions. It is estimated that replacing one incandescent bulb with a CFL will reduce CO2 emissions by half a ton over the life of the bulb. CFLs do contain a small amount of mercury and must be disposed of like lead based paint and batteries as a hazardous material. LEDs, while more expensive, are even more efficient than CFLS, and last even longer.

 The early CFLs gave off the harsh white light we have come to expect from fluorescents. Now you can choose the light quality you want. Kelvin measured light color are shown on packages by a K number. Light bulbs emitting 2700k looks the same as an incandescent. As that number increases the light becomes bluer and brighter.

 Ever since they became  available I have replaced my burned out bulbs with CFLs and  in hard to reach places, with LEDs,  I have not had to replace any of the new bulbs although some are more than three years old! I fully expect the LEDs in my bathroom to still be working long after I am dead

Both of these new types of bulbs are cheaper and better for the environment. This explains why the Act had such broad based support even under George Bush’s administration.

What explains the Republicans and their Tea Party backers desire to return to using incandescent bulbs? The Internet is loaded with letters, articles and blogs criticizing CFLs. They are too expensive… but  they are not. They can’t be dimmed… but they can! They can’t be produced as a three way bulb… but they are! They contain a dangerous amount of mercury… but eating fish too often poses a greater risk! Their light quality isn’t good… but if you choose the right bulb it is the same or better.

 The government uses a number of different approaches to encourage better behavior from its citizens. The energy star program which forces companies to estimate how much it will cost to run an appliance is one of them. Advising car buyers as to how many miles per gallon each car will get was somewhat effective but requiring companies to build more efficient vehicles works much better. Industry including the lighting industry supports these programs. They only ask that the rules apply to everyone.  Once given the requirements they will meet or exceed them. Competition forces them to make the best product at the lowest cost they can.

I am unable to understand the principles that govern today's Republicans. Later I will talk about their push to put unhealthy and fattening foods back onto  our school's menu. I can't believe that they believe incandescent bulbs and fat kids are best for America.
Ron Taht

1 comment:

  1. I too am shocked by the craziness. A couple of people I know have actually stocked up on dozens of 100 watt light bulbs in anticipation of their ban. As you mentioned, the internet is flooded with pass around emails full of half truths and untruths that take aim at not only light bulbs, but many other right wing targets such as birth certificates, global warming, and more. These emails are blindly accepted as fact. The real shame is that politicians are wasting time on phony issues like these when the real issues like education reform, job creation and rebuilding the economy are ignored.