Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Congress Tires to Overturn Incandescent "Ban"

In an attempt to roll back government interference in our daily lives Texas Rep Joe Barton (R) introduced a bill that would basically end the ban on incandescent light bulbs.

Sadly, the bill, which needed a super-majority to pass, was defeated in Congress. As expected, the vote pretty much fell along party lines. Not enough democrats switched sides to make this happen. And the likelihood that it would have passed the Senate fell somewhere between no and a snowballs chance in a hot place.

There is a myth running around that Congress banned the incandescent light bulb. This just isn’t true. What Congress did in 2007 was increase energy efficiency standards to a level that the incandescent light bulb cannot attain. Because the incandescent bulb is inefficient, the increase in energy efficiency standards was a de-facto ban.

This de-facto ban was a rallying point for those who oppose the rapid growth in government over the past several years. Everyone is aware they have to work at doing what they can to save energy. After all, it isn’t become any cheaper (due largely to government actions). And people have been slowly making the switch to the more efficient compact florescent lights (CFL). I know that my household has been moving in that direction for the past couple of years.

But there are problems with the CFL. First of all, the quality of light, when compared to the incandescent bulb, is poor. The switching that we have done is in areas that receive a lot of use, like in the kitchen and bedrooms. We have tried to keep reading lights and so forth as incandescent. Secondly is the cost of the bulbs themselves. CFLs are as much as 10x more expensive than the old bulbs. For folks that are struggling to get by, no amount of long-term savings is going to convince them to spend five plus bucks on a single bulb when you can spend the same amount and get enough bulbs for their whole house.

Lastly there is the impact of the law of unintended consequences. The CFL contains a poison, the very toxoc and dangerous mercury. Granted, the amount in a CFL is fairly miniscule so the individual danger is probably remote, even if a bulb breaks inside a house (although the warning labels say you should throw open some windows). But the longer term impacts to the environment could be staggering when all those mercury-based lights bulbs begin hitting our landfills over the next few years. Right now there are very few recycling programs for the CFL. Those that do exist are rather cumbersome. I see in the very near future the government will once again be stepping into our lives, mandating some form of recycling program, which will of course, add to the cost of the CFL bulb.

We are being to make inroads with the governing elite, removing members of Congress that think they are smarter than John Q. Public and installing folks that know they are accountable to the voters. But there still remains much work to be done, so when the times comes next fall to cast your vote, remember the people that voted to uphold the incandescent “ban”, who feel that they must dictate to us little people.

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