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Politicizing Light Bulbs

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Politicizing Light Bulbs

Politicizing Light Bulbs
October 11
16:13 2019

I still remember the first time I couldn’t find a regular light bulb on the store shelves that formerly stocked them. In their place were curly energy-efficient light-emitting diode (LED) bulbs – ugly but cheap to operate and good for the environment, we were told. These babies retailed for up to $30 apiece: ouch!

I declined to dive into LED technology even though a geeky friend said they were the new wave, the new age, and the bee’s knees. LEDs seldom burned out and produced light without heat. They could be colored and phased to blink in sequence. But the purchase price still seemed exorbitant to me. I chose to do my part to save the environment by recycling when it wasn’t a service provided by the waste management company.

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To educate the public on the virtues and advantages of LED light bulbs, volunteers at a city social event stood behind a promotional table and gave away these corkscrew-shaped lamps. Each lamp was packaged its own plain white cardboard box. The Earth would love us more for using the new technology, they said. So I did.

But, born skeptical, I went out of my way to find old-school outlets where I could still lay my hands on the smooth, round, incandescent bulbs of yore – and keep a stock of both types to this day. I use LEDs for far-away fixtures such as those outdoors or mounted on a high ceiling. Incandescents go into all the table and floor lamps that surround me and my family.

The fact that our government – and world governments – have taken such an interest in little old light bulbs made me suspicious. Fine if LED lights were ecologically better but a little voice inside my head said, “They’re lying.”

My mom was so leery of the promises made when LED light bulbs rolled out that she marked one with the date it was installed, a fact I discovered when I changed the bulb years later. That’s my family, always questioning authority.

Here’s the back story:

On December 19, 2007, President George W. Bush signed into law legislation called the Energy Independence and Security Act (EISA). This Public Law supported the energy reduction goals previously set forth by executive order – with more aggressive requirements.

The three key provisions enacted were:

  1. Corporate Average Fuel Economy Standards
  2. Renewable Fuel Standard
  3. Appliance/lighting Efficiency Standards

EISA allows the federal government to micromanage the nation’s commercial energy industry. Its stated objectives sounded pretty good:

  • move the United States toward greater energy independence and security;
  • increase the production of clean renewable fuels;
  • protect consumers;
  • increase the efficiency of products, buildings, and vehicles;
  • promote research on and deploy greenhouse gas capture and storage options;
  • improve the energy performance of the Federal Government; and
  • increase U.S. energy security, develop renewable fuel production, and improve vehicle fuel economy.

EISA, was crafted “to move the United States toward greater energy independence and security, to increase the production of clean renewable fuels, to protect consumers, to increase the efficiency of products, buildings, and vehicles, to promote research on and deploy greenhouse gas capture and storage options, and to improve the energy performance of the Federal Government, and for other purposes.”

Under EISA, all light bulbs marketed commercially must increase their energy efficiency by approximately 25 percent. The law of physics dictates that a more efficient bulb must be less bright – it has less “luminous flux” – which many consumers consider to be a downside of this light bulb option.

EISA mandates a 200-fold increase in energy efficiency and savings for all consumer light bulbs by 2020. The new EISA regulations for lighting efficiency has quelled incandescent light bulb production and sales, although some are still available with just enough energy savings to qualify under congressional law.

As intended, standard A-style incandescent light bulb makers are re-focusing production to more energy-efficient technologies, including halogens, compact fluorescents (CFLs), and LEDs.

Compared to incandescent bulbs, all the alternatives cost more to purchase out of pocket. Halogen bulbs cost about a dollar as compared to 50 cents for its incandescent counterpart. CFLs and LEDs are more pricey. It pays to shop around.

But how do they perform?

  • Halogen bulbs are 28% more efficient than traditional incandescents.
  • CFL bulbs use roughly one-fourth as much energy as incandescent bulbs and result in huge cost savings.
  • LEDs products will last 10-15 years before they begin to dim. Residential LEDs use at least 75% less energy and last 25 times longer than incandescent lighting.

Fans of traditional incandescent bulbs – as well as the National Electrical Manufacturers Association and lighting manufacturers – may rejoice at the news that, on September 3, 2019, the Trump administration recently reversed the EISA requirement that commercial light bulbs be energy-compliant by 2020.

The U.S. Department of Energy issued a statement which underscored Trump’s pro-business, anti-federal stance toward the nation’s energy policy:

“This action will ensure that the choice of how to light homes and businesses is left to the American people, not the federal government.”

I, for one, am willing to make many sacrifices for my country and my fellow countrypeople – but give me an incandescent light bulb or give me dark (with apologies to Patrick Henry).

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  1. PalomarJack
    PalomarJack October 11, 21:36

    Here is the result of what happens when someone does not know what they are talking about. The spiral shaped lights were never LEDs, they are compact fluorescents, CFLs, the worst lighting idea foisted on us. We should have never seen these atrocities, we should have gone straight to LEDS when they were available, then, the general public would not have been near as suspicious of LEDS after the CFL debacle.

    Reply to this comment
    • Bill P.
      Bill P. October 13, 19:10

      I was thinking the same thing. The big problem was with the CFLs, whereas the LED technology superseded it – with no real thanks to government which is always far behind the curve when it comes to innovation.

      Keep the government the hell out of just about everything. Central planning never works as intended, is inherently inefficient and costly, and bears no real benefit to anyone – except bureaucrats.

      Which is why it exists in the first place.

      Reply to this comment
    • RonGZ
      RonGZ October 13, 19:18

      yes, thanx PJ for pointing the CFL confusion out. Jean also failed to answer the eco ? also, which is why this EE was curious enough to click on the bait.

      Reply to this comment
    • Tujunga Charlie
      Tujunga Charlie October 13, 19:20

      Palomar Jack is right. In addition,CFL’s must be handled carefully as they contsin mercury. If one breaks, you have a hazardous spill on your hands that must be treated as toxic waste.

      LED’s are more efficient and are just as bright but use less energy over time than incandescents, which means cost less to operate. If the cost to operate over their lifetime is less than the cost of as many incandescents that would be needed, an LED is worth it (as advertise). I have seen LED’s burn out way sooner than the packaging has claimed.

      Reply to this comment
  2. B-5
    B-5 October 13, 18:13

    Look up galiam arsenide and how toxic it is and that China produces enough the trace amounts are found in Lake Tahoe and the United States will not let led lights be made here.

    Reply to this comment
  3. Beancounter
    Beancounter October 13, 19:35

    CFL’s were horrible devices that haven’t darkened my home in years. Good riddance!

    I don’t appreciate government dictating how I may light my home. It’s good to have the choice of incandescent bulbs again. I do hafta say, though, that I mostly use LED’s despite the fact that they don’t last anywhere near as long as hyped!

    Reply to this comment
  4. Franklin54
    Franklin54 October 13, 22:47

    I would have walked up to the booth offering the new technologies and lifted one of the CFL bulbs and asked them point blank, this is better for the environment? and as soon as they said yes, I would drop one next to their feet and watch them coil and run away, because what they dont advertise is the new CFL’s have mercury in them, NOT safe for the environment

    also, any product that has to be forced on the public and forcing people to buy can be all that economical or good for anyone, if it was it would sell on its own merits

    Reply to this comment
  5. Gourdhead
    Gourdhead October 14, 12:43

    Excellent article as well as an excellent move on the part of our President.

    Reply to this comment

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