Thursday, December 27, 2007

We see through a bulb darkly

On the debate between fluorescent and incandescent light bulbs: two letters (subscription required) on A9 of today's WSJ. Both condemn Congress as silly for promoting the former; each comes from a different standpoint.

Writes Roger B. in Tucson, Ariz.:

...Congress has now dictated phasing out the incandescent bulb starting in 2012. Think of the hardships and costs that law will force on the public. Ponder your current incandescent bulb usages that do not readily adapt to compact fluorescent lights (CFLs) or others.

Incandescent bulbs can operate on low voltages such as three volts (flashlights) and 12 volts (autos) but compact CFLs cannot. No more flashlights...no more power-on and indicator lights on your auto dashboard and your large and small (coffeemaker, iron) home appliances...no more holiday lights such as on Christmas trees and outdoor decorations. What would you use for bicycle head and tail-lights? How about roadside distress and warning lights that plug into cigarette lighters or dashboard power sockets? Also mood lighting for parts of your home and some commercial establishments, since CFLs do not readily adapt to dimming...

While some of the above uses are for convenience, others are for safety and life-saving reasons. Although decades in the future scientists may develop other sources of light, in the near term we do not have reasonable replacements for most of the above uses.

Quoth Charles G. Battig, M.D. in Charlottesville, Va.:

Reflecting upon the editorial "Dim Bulbs" I feel that a more illuminating title would have been "Dim Wits."

Does Congress understand that their beloved compact fluorescent light bulbs are miniature toxic bundles of mercury just waiting to pollute your local land fill? Does the public understand that their conventional light dimmers do not work with these bulbs? Just read the warning labels on the package.

Practicality, utility, toxicity. Personally, I figure that if Edison invented the incandescent, it can't be all that bad...

10 comments:

Ed Darrell said...

They ought to check the actual law to see what it proposes -- flashlights probably are exempt.

BUT, if the author knew anything about flashlights, he'd know that most of us are switching to LEDs. Much better power usage creates better battery life, much more light, and so on.

Then there is the assumption Congress didn't think about that issue. Has he bothered to check the hearing record?

Informed voters are the best kind.

Hannah J said...

You raise many questions. Especially this one: "Then there is the assumption Congress didn't think about that issue. Has he bothered to check the hearing record?"

Naw. Congress has enough pork to worry about without thinking about such insignificant things as light bulbs!

Ed Darrell said...

Actually, the Senate Energy Committee held hearings on September 12, on S. 2107:
http://thomas.loc.gov/cgi-bin/cpquery/1?cp110:./temp/~TSOPMsQ8c&sid=TSOPMsQ8c&item=1&sel=TOCLIST&hd_count=3&xform_type=3&r_n=sr065.110&dbname=cp110&&maxdocs=500&r_t=h&r_t=s&r_t=jc&refer=&&w_p=incandescent&attr=3&&

Congress isn't as stupid as you think.

Ed Darrell said...

Here, check out the story from the very conservative (Cap Weinberger was the publisher) U.S. News and World Report:
http://www.usnews.com/articles/business/economy/2007/12/19/faq-the-end-of-the-light-bulb-as-we-know-it.html

Hannah J said...

Your US News link got cut off or something. Couldn't access the page. And I'm not so sure that you know conservatism when you see it...USN&WR is leaning the other way, bit by bit.

Hannah J said...

And the LOC link doesn't work either - says "No Search Criteria Entered." Temporary files don't cut it.

Ed Darrell said...

My apologies. Here's the U.S. News as a Tiny URL:
http://tinyurl.com/2aeatc

Ed Darrell said...

Here's a pretty good story about the bill from the NY Times -- it may require a free registration, but I'm sure you have one already:
http://tinyurl.com/248c3x

Ed Darrell said...

Here's the Senate Energy Committee press release on the introduction of the bill by Sen. Bingaman:
http://tinyurl.com/yvc4uf

Here's the hearing -- I think you can link to copies of the submitted, printed testimony there. NEMA, the National Electrical Manufacturers Association was there, so my guess is that the Committee considered most of these issues:
http://tinyurl.com/32cwgs

You may watch the hearing here, in an archived webcast:
http://energy.senate.gov/public/_files/energy091207.ram

and here's a Tiny URL on that hearing webcast:
http://tinyurl.com/2tjgk7

A couple of news articles I've found say the manufacturers weren't exactly opposed -- they've been moving to eliminate incandescent bulbs for some time.

Ed Darrell said...

What does it take to get the corrected URLs out of jail?