Skip to comments.The Light That Failed. Washington's War on the Light Bulb will have Unintended Consequences
Posted on 07/08/2011 8:23:19 AM PDT by SeekAndFind
With its traffic circles and tree-lined squares, Americas capital sometimes resembles a magical, otherworldly place. Maybe thats why so many who govern here think they can wave their legislative wands and unleash beauty free of costs and complications.
Of course, reality rarely cooperates.
Consider Washingtons still-unfolding ban on Thomas Alva Edisons incandescent light bulb. What the Wizard of Menlo Park, N.J., required 10,000 experiments to perfect, Brooks Brothers socialist George W. Bush needed just one signature to make anathema.
If the law is left unchallenged, Jan. 1, 2012, will bring stricter standards that Congress designed in 2007 to eliminate Edisons invention and dragoon Americans into using more energy-efficient alternatives.
Courtesy of our federal masters, Americans are enduring a parade of unforeseen consequences all because the experts want to extinguish one of this nations greatest contributions to humanity.
Those swirly bulbs that Washington hopes will replace incandescents are called compact fluorescent lamps (CFLs). They brighten slowly, function poorly with dimmer knobs, and emit light that many find unappealing. Even worse, according to EnergyStar.gov, each CFL contains 4 milligrams of toxic mercury. Given the Environmental Protection Agencys maximum contaminant level of 0.002 milligrams per liter, an average CFL contains enough mercury to pollute 528 gallons of water more than enough to fill ten typical 50-gallon residential water heaters.
As the EPA warns, High exposures to inorganic mercury may result in damage to the gastrointestinal tract, the nervous system, and the kidneys.
Breaking a CFL triggers a significant health hazard that requires a ten-step clean-up. Among other things, the EPA recommends opening a window or door to the outdoor environment. No problem . . . unless you occupy an apartment, hotel room, or office with sealed windows. Most modern skyscrapers lack operable windows. The same is true for many Capitol Hill offices.
The irony should be lost on no one that many members of Congress who crafted this legislation lack the ability to vent the toxic vapors from these eco-friendly lights that they have foisted on us, says Chicago real-estate developer Justin Berzon.
Shut off the central forced air heating/air conditioning system, EPA advises. Again, what if you break a CFL in an office tower? Shall the entire building freeze or roast while this miniSuperfund site gets sanitized?
Continue to air out the room where the bulb was broken and leave the H&AC system shut off, as practical, for several hours, EPA counsels. This might upset residents of Phoenix, where temperatures hit 105 degrees on Tuesday. Likewise, opening ones windows in Minneapolis might be unappealing in January, when highs average 22 degrees.
Compact fluorescent light bulbs are dangerous for our family, and dangerous twice over for our son Jonathan, age 11, who is severely autistic, says Amy Ridenour, president of the National Center for Public Policy Research, at which I am a distinguished fellow. Ridenour adds:
Because of his disability, Jonathan doesnt understand that he should be careful around light fixtures, so he breaks a bulb every few months. The EPA recommends a ten-step process for cleaning up a broken CFL bulb on carpeting, and two more steps each of the next few times that you vacuum, in order to get the mercury that the first 10 steps missed. But how can you be sure to get it all? If our autistic son broke three CFL bulbs a year in the family room over half a dozen years, even if we followed every recommended step a tedious, cumulative 180-plus times, would our family room ever be safe?
Also, Ridenour continues, the last thing you do with severely autistic people is open windows. In the parlance, they tend to be runners as in, out the door or window and into traffic, or the woods, or the pool. We only would open a window about six inches and no more, so as to permit us to keep the boy.
If the environmentalists were sincere, they would object to CFLs because of the small amount of mercury in each of them, says Myron Ebell, director of Freedom Action, a pro-market grassroots organization whose motto is putting freedom on the offensive. They do object to minute amounts of mercury in airborne emissions from coal-fired power plants. The minute amounts of mercury in the air have trouble getting into anyones vital organs. However, the little bit of mercury from breaking a CFL bulb in your home could end up inside of you. I think the environmentalists are being very inconsistent.
Old CFLs should be disposed of properly at recycling centers. Dream on. Most consumers will toss them in the trash with their tea bags. Mercury will accumulate in Americas landfills, possibly with disastrous results.
For all the energy it has invested in erasing Edisons creation, Washington ultimately may swap the old problem of energy-inefficient incandescent bulbs for the new problem of mercury-oozing CFLs.
Beyond mercury, CFLs present other health risks. They sometimes flicker, which can cause eye strain, headaches, and epileptic seizures. Some people with light-sensitive skin reportedly have suffered eczema-like symptoms thanks to CFLs.
As Washington has hammered incandescents, some users have gravitated toward light-emitting diodes. While LEDs pose none of CFLs health risks, they present their own problems.
Shifting from Edison bulbs to LEDs can save cities and states money. Changing streetlights to LEDs has shrunk Wisconsins power bill by $750,000 annually, the Associated Presss Dinesh Ramde reported in December 2009.
But their great advantage is also their drawback, Ramde wrote. They do not waste energy by producing heat. This means that the snow and ice that normally melt on contact with a hot, Edison-style streetlight or traffic signal instead coat LED fixtures. Street lights get whited out, a problem blamed for dozens of accidents and at least one death, Ramde explained.
This problem caused Duane Kassens, a Wisconsin driver, to get into a fender-bender. The police officer told me the new lights werent melting the snow, Kassens said. How is that safe?
In April 2009, Illinois officials say, motorist Lisa Richter began a left turn. Because of snow obstruction, an oncoming driver who could not see an LED-driven streetlight smashed into Richter, killing her at age 34.
Would the accident have occurred if the lights had been clear? Oswego police detective Rob Sherwood told the AP. I would be willing to bet not.
Several jurisdictions have addressed this challenge by retrofitting street lights with heating elements, such as those for airport runway lights. This burns more energy reducing the LEDs chief benefit.
CFLs decreased warmth, meanwhile, may hike heating bills. Canadas CBC News observed in March 2009 that older incandescent bulbs do more than just light our homes. During the long winter months, they also generate heat. CFLs, conversely, produce minimal heat, so the loss has to be made up by fossil-fuel burning gas, oil, or wood to heat your home. So CFLs power savings sometimes must wane to keep things warm.
Although CFLs and LEDs supposedly save money in the long run, they cost much more up front. While Lowes.com charges 93 cents for a 100-watt incandescent bulb, equivalent CFLs are $4.49. Meanwhile, a 95-watt-equivalent LED bulb runs a staggering $69.98. If Edison bulbs vanish, does Washington really expect consumers to pay nearly $70 for an LED version of the still-reliable 100-watt incandescent?
While employment tops Americas agenda, Washingtons war on the Edison bulb has already killed jobs. Last September, General Electric (a company founded by Edison) padlocked its last U.S. incandescent-bulb factory. A variety of energy regulations will soon make the familiar lighting products produced at the Winchester [Virginia] Plant obsolete, GE announced last year. Thus, 200 Americans lost their jobs, which paid some $30 per hour. In October 2008, GE shuttered six Ohio incandescent plants, leaving 425 workers in the dark. Meanwhile, labor-intensive CFL production is thriving . . . in China.
The Republican House may vote this month to repeal the Edison-bulb ban. Outstanding! This wicked law cannot be scrapped soon enough.
If the American people needed another example of why it is time to roll back the hyper-regulation of the past four years, this is it, said Rep. Marsha Blackburn (R., Tenn.), as she and Republican congressmen Joe Barton and Michael Burgess of Texas co-introduced legislation to overturn the bulb restrictions:
Washington banned a perfectly good product and fired hard working Americans based on little more than their own whim and the silly notion that they know better than the American consumer. Now, hundreds more Americans are looking for work while assembly lines in China are churning out fluorescent bulbs for the US market. Tell me how that makes any sense at all.
Ultimately, this issue involves losing freedom. Washington could have declared the LP wasteful in the 1970s. After all, vinyl albums required lots of petroleum, large pieces of cardboard for record sleeves, and abundant energy to manufacture and transport such a hefty product. Congress could have banned the LP and prematurely steered music lovers toward eight-track tapes.
Suddenly, Sony and Philips developed the compact disc. CDs largely superseded LPs, only to yield lately to iTunes and (maddeningly) digital music theft. Nonetheless, a handful of vinyl diehards still exercise their freedom of choice and purchase brand-new LPs and even 45 RPM recordings marketed by specialty labels and purist music producers.
The Edison bulb likewise should compete with CFLs, LEDs, halogens, candles, and other current and future technologies. If the incandescent survives, splendid. If it eventually dies a natural death, or simply goes the way of the kerosene lamp (which remains barely available for the nostalgic), so be it.
However, Washington should not smother Edisons bulb with a pillow, especially since incandescents outsold CFLs last year by three-to-one.
Thomas Alva Edison heroically expanded choices for American citizens. Washington robs choices from Americans except for abortion. What a long shadow this frightful town casts across the nation.
New York commentator Deroy Murdock is a nationally syndicated columnist with the Scripps Howard News Service and a media fellow with the Hoover Institution on War, Revolution and Peace at Stanford University.
Go dark. No CFLs. Candles first.
Go dark. No CFLs. Candles first.
RE: Smash CFLs on every street in America until congress gets it.
Who’s gonna clean up the toxic mercury after they get smashed?
This is going to sound funny but, it will end up being very costly. I got baby chicks again this summer. They need a warming lamp for 4-5 weeks. In the winter I usually keep one or two 100watt light bulbs in the coop for really frigid days just to keep the hens from getting frost bitten on their combs and wattles. I only have 22 chicks right now. But, farmers that raise chickens for meat and eggs can have 100’s of chickens and raise 100’s more baby chicks. So what in the sam hill are they suppose to do? Those curly light bulbs are useless and if they have to actually pay to keep the chicks warm until their adult feathers come in, it’s going to be way costlier than just using a heat lamp.
China makes these bulbs for us because Washington’s restrictions on manufacturing with mercury are so bad that you can’t make the bulbs here.
Due to the wisdom of Congress, mercury is so toxic that we are forced to import China’s mercury into our homes by law.
Good idea. Also buy up regular light bulbs. That’s what I’ve been doing.
Congress, of course.
Let Congress clean up the mess they create.
Why on earth doesn’t the GOP leadership in the House get with this and talk up the repeal of the ban on the incandescent bulb? I’ve never heard anyone in Congress mention this publicly, neither in last year’s campaign nor since.
Lay in a good supply of Edison light bulbs. That’s what I’ve done.
“Death By Liberalism” by J. R. Dunn expands this theme beyond light bulbs.
Ah yes, The Light That Failed, Ronald Coleman’s finest performance. Great story by Kipling and great directing by William Wellman. Throw in the delicate and fierce Ida Lupino and you’ve got a picture!
Me too, buy two or three packages every month.
***Smash CFLs on every street in America until congress gets it.***
If 10,000 people rushed the capitol and hurled one cfl bulb each onto the steps, that would get their attention!
We have enough to last the next twenty years or so.
Congress has waited entirely too long to get this law revolked. Unfortunately the Repubs put the Republican CongressCritter who sponsored the original banning legisaltion as the committee chairman. He has been dragging his feet, while pouring out pious plattitudes of “we are researching the topic.”
That’s what I’ve been trying to figure out, how many we need for the next even 10 years or so.
NO large scale chicken operation uses incandescant lamps to "brood" baby chicks. They use "brooders", which are electrically heated at lower temperatures without the efficiency loss of emitting light.