Monday, June 13, 2011

Stop with the inferior, mercury death bulbs, OK?

I suspect many of you are like me.  You really didn't think this light bulb thing was going to happen.  Oh, you've heard the rumors for years and have read the ominous news stories about the looming ban on incandescent bulbs, but it seemed like something in the far, distant future, like those Obama-mandated 39 MPH cars of 2016. 

Perhaps you even flirted with the curly mercury-infused spaghetti-noodled death bombs.  You thought you could save the touted $5.00 per year, per bulb because these things were supposed to last,000 years - or hours - something, right?  Why would any Neanderthal continue to use an incandescent bulb that has changed little since the time of Edison?

But then the buyer's remorse set in.  After you got over the sticker shock, you realized that they didn't work in your dimmers, they didn't work in your 3-way lights, they looked goofy in your chandelier, and if you're over 40, you needed to turn on two lamps just to read the newspaper. And they gave everyone in your family an eerie greenish tint.  Well, at least you were saving money!

Uncle Sam's Light Bulb

Or not.  It turns out the advertised longevity claim is bogus if you abuse your CFL if you are really mean to them and turn them on and off regularly.  Or if you put them in fixtures they don't like.  Or they aren't kept as cool as they prefer.  The New York Times reports, "experts" blame the Feds:
"Some experts who study the issue blame the government for the quality problems, saying an intensive federal push to lower the price essentially backfired by encouraging manufacturers to use cheap components
“In the pursuit of the holy grail, we stepped on the consumer,” said Michael Siminovitch, director of a lighting center at the University of California, Davis"
Other "experts" say consumers are the problem:
" Experts and bulb manufacturers say that consumers need to play a role in solving the problems by learning more about the limitations of compact fluorescent bulbs. The Federal Trade Commission has begun to study whether it should force improvements in the labels of the bulbs."
In other words, consumers' standards are just too high.  Once we learn the "limitations about compact fluorescent bulbs" we can then lower our expectations and we won't be so disappointed when they fail miserably.  Why get our hopes up?  Better labeling will prepare us for these new, lower standards in lighting.  

And then there's the pesky problem of what to do with all that mercury once they burn out or...gasp...are broken!  In Minnesota, it's expected that very soon, the deposits of  CFL bulbs will overwhelm recycling programs.  In a survey asking Minnesotans how the state should deal with disposal of these bulbs, 
"...55% of surveyed citizens said they’d prefer to do it through an increase in the price of the bulbs. Another 30% would prefer to pay through recycling fees. An increase of 50 cents in the price of bulbs would still leave 80% recycling the bulbs, but a $1.50 recycling cost would cut that rate to 52%."
Great.  So we're going to have to pay on the other end of these bulbs as well.  

Virginia Postrel at Bloomberg gives as a brief history of how we got the bulb ban, which will go into effect nationwide at the end of the year (FYI, California got a head start and started this month). 
"So the activists offended by the public’s presumed wastefulness took a more direct approach. They joined forces with the big bulb producers, who had an interest in replacing low-margin commodities with high-margin specialty wares, and, with help from Congress and President George W. Bush, banned the bulbs people prefer.
It was an inside job. Neither ordinary consumers nor even organized interior designers had a say. Lawmakers buried the ban in the 300-plus pages of the 2007 energy bill, and very few talked about it in public. It was crony capitalism with a touch of green.
Of such deals are Tea Parties born."

She's absolutely right. If ever there was an issue that was symbolic of the Nanny State and its attack on our individual liberty, this is it.  The Tea Party would find many comrades in a battle against this obscene bulb ban.

And a Congressman or candidate who was looking for a populist issue that affects every American household and irritates a high percentage of them would be smart to take up this cause. 

Check out the video below for more:

1 comment:

Electrical Continuing Education said...

I've been reading a lot of issues about CFLs and the danger it may bring. I don't know if I already need to change my bulbs at home. All of my bulbs are CFLs. My contractor who took his Electrical Training Courses said that LED is much better to use.