The War Against Light Bulb Vigilantes Marches On!


Lest you thought that Republicans had given up defending us from the gay Marxian Hitlerist Stalinism of energy efficient light bulbs, don’t worry, they’re still Johnny on the spot (boldface mine):

In the trillion-dollar budget deal Congressional leaders revealed Tuesday, Republicans didn’t press to defund the Environmental Protection Agency’s climate change rules. But they did uphold one of the most boneheaded anti-government riders of the last decade.

Some quick background: The United States wastes astounding amounts of electricity on light bulbs. The Energy Department figures that American homes spend about 10 percent of their electricity bills on lighting, and households that use old, Edison-era incandescents convert less than 10 percent of the electricity they buy for their bulbs into light. The rest uselessly dissipates as heat.

Though households quickly save money on energy bills when they buy more expensive bulbs that waste less power and last longer, Americans for years didn’t push the transition forward absent a government nudge. This left hefty national savings on the table, as well as a surprisingly large environmental dividend. The EPA calculates that every incandescent bulb switched for a more efficient compact fluorescent bulb saves about 84 pounds in carbon dioxide emissions every year. The Energy Department figures that a transition to super-efficient LED bulbs by 2027 would save about 44 large power plants’ worth of electricity (h/t Brad Plumer).

So Congress passed some simple light bulb efficiency standards in 2007. Lawmakers didn’t ban incandescent bulbs. Instead they demanded that bulbs produced in or imported into the U.S. use no more than a certain amount of electricity to produce a certain amount of light. If manufacturers could make incandescents less wasteful, they could produce the improved bulbs freely. One result has been a boom in the commercialization of new lighting technologies that could save Americans some $6 billion next year.

Another result was an upsurge in counterproductive ideological fuming from the right: In a different budget compromise passed earlier this year, Republicans added a rider prohibiting the Energy Department from enforcing the bulb standards.

Wherever someone can not use a fluorescent light bulb, you will find us

Nuts, it’s not even fun to go after people who beclown themselves so thoroughly…

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10 Responses to The War Against Light Bulb Vigilantes Marches On!

  1. dr2chase says:

    I was about to say that anyone who opposes use of LED bulbs is a fucking idiot, but then I realized that the caveat emptor rule does apply — there are hucksters and charlatans trying to separate you from you money with LED bulbs that have the world’s awfulest color temperature and rendering index, and anyone who buys one of those by accident will not be a happy-satisfied customer. This is one case where we need a bit more regulation, not less. By law, “bright white” ought to be described as “welding arc”.

    When in doubt, buy CREE or Philips/LumiLEDs.

  2. Frank Carpenter says:

    Well, there are plenty of manufacturers of acceptable CRI index bulbs, and it’s worth noting that to say less than x amount of energy gets converted to visible light is to ignore the fact that there times of year that heat is good as long as it is contained in the building envelope.
    Yes, I get that electrically generated heat is expensive, but still.
    I’ve been systematically replacing one bulb per month from fluorescent to LED, and each month I calculate that the savings are likely to pay for the bulb over it’s lifetime.

    So, outside of the societal and generational benefits of energy efficiency, there is nothing in this for consumers. And certainly nothing in it for Republicans.


    • dr2chase says:

      There’s plenty in it for consumers — you won’t need to replace those LED bulbs for a decade, which is work avoided. They run cool and have simpler drive circuits that are unlikely to fail in unpleasant ways (like fire — and yes, I keep on waiting to encounter an offensively cost-reduced LED bulb with all the faults of cost-reduced CFLs, but on the other hand we have so much expertise in designing switching power supplies that it takes a peculiar breed of fucking idiot to get one that far wrong).

      The heat you get from light bulbs is crap — most of it is in places where you don’t get to enjoy it, and resistive heating is an inefficient abomination even when compared to burning oil or gas in a furnace, never mind a heat pump. There’s no “but still” — it’s a waste.

      • Frank Carpenter says:

        I’m with you on all this, my point is these are arguments that the crazies will and do use.
        Go into any retail outlet that sells light bulbs, ask 10 people what a switching power supply is. As a follow up question ask them how many light bulbs they changed out last year and how many man hours of labor those change outs entailed. Then ask them what their primary news source is and how many hours they watch it.

        I can’t make a good economic argument for this stuff unless i include the social and environmental costs, and then only if I can find someone else who gives a damn what those are.

        • dr2chase says:

          Hmm, I did the math once, against an incandescent bulb (which is what all the true crazies worship) an LED bulb is an astonishing investment. Even the so-called “failing” cases (e.g., early death of bulb) pay out at a 14.8% (i.e., like you loaned the money to someone for five years at a 14.8% annual mortgage rate). Tax-free returns, too, since that is money saved. It’s stupefying that these guys are not all over this.

          • Frank Carpenter says:

            Again I’m with you on this. Now convince Sean Hannity.

            • dr2chase says:

              He’s paid to be a fucking idiot, and he’s good at it. No point even trying.

            • dr2chase says:

              Seriously, can you imagine how much good he could do if he simply told his audience “find the lightbulb you run the most in your house. Go out and buy one LED bulb at Home Depot, CREE brand, made in America, a good buy, great engineering, and the best LEDs. It will save you a little money. Keep doing that, one bulb every month or two, till you’re down to light bulbs you run less than two hours per day. There’s no place you can find a better investment.”

  3. killiara says:

    As someone for whom florescent lights are a major migraine trigger, the image used for this article made me go “YES! DEATH TO FLORESCENTS!”

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