Eco-Extremism: A light bulb factory closes in Virginia as mandated fluorescents are made in China. It’s now a crime to make or ship for sale 75-watt incandescent bulbs in the European Union. Welcome to green hell.
Thomas Alva Edison was a genius credited with the invention of many things — the phonograph, the motion picture, the incandescent light bulb, global warming. That last credit was given by those who rank light bulbs right up there with the internal combustion engine as ravagers of the planet.
The General Electric light bulb factory in Winchester, Va., closed this month, a victim, along with its 200 employees, of a 2007 energy conservation measure passed by Congress that set standards essentially banning ordinary incandescents by 2014.
Just as they are by fuel-economy standards, consumers are denied choice and the freedom to evaluate any possible benefits on their own by the nanny state. Washington’s force and coercion are necessary because it seems the great unwashed can’t seem to see the benefits or ignore the risks of compact fluorescents, or CFLs.
In Europe, light bulbs are already a controlled substance. The 100-watt bulb was banned last year and the 75-watt became illegal as of Sept. 1.
Not surprisingly, incandescent light bulbs there quickly became a hot item, flying off the shelves while they were still available. Der Spiegel reported that German customers leave hardware stores with carts piled high with enough incandescent bulbs to last 20 years. Garages and attics throughout the Old World are full of them.
It’s said that CFL bulbs are more economical in the long run because they supposedly use up to 80% less energy than old-style bulbs and don’t burn out as quickly. Though we’re not fully convinced of these claims, we do know that CFL bulbs are more expensive, costing up to six times as much as equivalent incandescent bulbs. Because they are made of glass tubes twisted into a spiral, they also require more hand labor and therefore cost more.
Due to the expense, CFLs are made largely in China, where labor is cheaper and environmental regulations not so strict. As with wind turbine blades, we are creating plenty of green jobs — in the People’s Republic.
Despite governments’ effort to market them, CFLs are not necessarily better. Tests conducted by the London Telegraph found that using a single lamp to illuminate a room, an 11-watt CFL produced only 58% of the illumination of an equivalent 60-watt incandescent — even after a 10-minute warm-up that consumers have found necessary for CFLs to reach their full brightness.
Lack of light isn’t the only drawback. CFLs apparently are so dangerous, the European Commission has to warn consumers of the environmental hazards they pose. If one breaks, consumers are advised to air out rooms and avoid using vacuum cleaners to prevent exposure to the mercury in the bulbs.
You can’t just throw an old bulb out, either. It must be properly disposed of lest your bedroom or family room become a Superfund toxic waste site.
Mercury is considered by environmentalists to be among the most toxic of toxic substances and, yes, it is dangerous if ingested or handled over time. We’ve been warned that high concentrations in fish are dangerous to pregnant women. We’ve been told mercury in vaccines causes autism. So it’s safe in light bulbs?
As we’ve found out here with energy regulation and taxes, and the push for cap-and-trade, governments don’t care what people want. Nor do they weigh the costs, the benefits and the risks of this or that. Government must mandate what’s good for us under penalty of law.
We still have time, though, before the lights go out. Our phase-out doesn’t begin until Jan. 1, 2012 — coincidentally an election year. When New Zealand faced a similar ban two years ago, it became an election issue for the National Party, at the time in the minority against the ruling Labour government.
In November 2008, the newly elected National Party overturned the light-bulb ban. This should make a light go on over the heads of GOP strategists seeking another issue against the nanny state. How about standing for light, liberty and the pursuit of happiness?