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Activists Seek Repeal of Ban On Incandescent Bulbs 1049

Posted by Soulskill
from the wouldn't-want-to-accidentally-get-something-done dept.
Hugh Pickens writes writes "Daniel Sayani reports in New American that Senator Mike Enzi plans to introduce legislation to reverse the ban on incandescent light bulbs which is scheduled to go into effect January 1, 2014. 'CFLs are more expensive, many contain mercury which can be harmful even in the smallest amounts, and most are manufactured overseas in places like China,' says Enzi. 'If left alone, the best bulb will win its rightful standing in the marketplace. Government doesn't need to be in the business of telling people what light bulb they have to use.' Faced with a phaseout, some consumers are stockpiling incandescent bulbs, although a poll by USA Today indicates most Americans support the US law that begins phasing out traditional light bulbs next year. Despite some consumer grumbling, they're satisfied with more efficient alternatives. 71% of US adults say they have replaced standard light bulbs in their home over the past few years with compact fluorescent lamps or LEDs and 84% say they are 'very satisfied' or 'satisfied' with CFLs and LEDs."
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Activists Seek Repeal of Ban On Incandescent Bulbs

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  • by maxwell demon (590494) on Friday February 25, 2011 @06:25PM (#35317424) Journal

    Will they forbid those, too?

  • Pointless fight (Score:4, Interesting)

    by mozumder (178398) on Friday February 25, 2011 @06:25PM (#35317432)

    Because LED lighting will own the market in a few years.

  • Clean Power (Score:4, Informative)

    by 0100010001010011 (652467) on Friday February 25, 2011 @06:26PM (#35317454)

    I've found that unless you have nice clean power, CFLs don't last any longer than regular bulbs. Not everyone gets 60 Hz pure sine, 120V+-1% to their house. Older wiring, older part of town, etc. I rented an apartment that had me replacing CFLs once a month (until I realized it was the apartment and not a fluke and switched back). You still can't beat 4 bulbs for $.99.

    • Re:Clean Power (Score:5, Insightful)

      by seanvaandering (604658) <sean@vaandering.gmail@com> on Friday February 25, 2011 @06:36PM (#35317614)
      Exactly.... I live in an older apartment, and we seem to go through bulbs once every 2-3 months - not much I can do about it, except keep buying more bulbs - so it boils down to whatever is the cheapest option, wins.

      On another note, CFLs annoy me to no end - we replaced one light with a CFL bulb, and when we turn it on, it actually takes time to "warm up". After 5 minutes, it's nice and bright, but when we first turn it on, it's dim... like a streetlight that's just turning on. Annoying as hell.
      • by phoenix_rizzen (256998) on Friday February 25, 2011 @07:54PM (#35318760)

        This.

        Ever tried replacing a 100W porch light with a CFL? May as well not bother turning it on in the winter, light won't make it out of the housing at -10C. Even when powered on all night, you'll be lucky to see the top of your door before dawn.

    • by bickerdyke (670000) on Friday February 25, 2011 @06:58PM (#35317932)

      You still can't beat 4 bulbs for $.99.

      At least not as long as you don't turn them on.

      Or is electricity free in your place?

  • by TechyImmigrant (175943) * on Friday February 25, 2011 @06:27PM (#35317464) Journal

    Incandescent bulbs are widely used for heating. For example in bread proofing boxs, small animal tanks and lava lamps.

    What exactly are we supposed to use now?

  • by Omnifarious (11933) * <eric-slash&omnifarious,org> on Friday February 25, 2011 @06:27PM (#35317468) Homepage Journal

    Most energy efficient technologies are actually an economic net win. After an initial push the government doesn't need to be involved. I see the government involvement in this sort of thing as more a swift kick to the economy to push it out of a local minima, and that's how it should stay.

  • by cratermoon (765155) on Friday February 25, 2011 @06:28PM (#35317476) Homepage
    Sen. Enzi has interests in utilities and natural gas and coal mining. Can't imagine why he'd care if people used less energy-efficient lightbulbs.
    • by Mateorabi (108522) on Friday February 25, 2011 @06:44PM (#35317744) Homepage
      Not only that, but over the lifetime of the CFL bulb doesn't the (extra) coal burnt to power the (hour equivalent) 3-4 incandecents release more mercury than was in the same CFL? And the CFL mercury only gets released if not disposed of properly.
    • by tiqui (1024021) on Saturday February 26, 2011 @12:18AM (#35320914)

      Sen. Enzi has interests in utilities and natural gas and coal mining. Can't imagine why he'd care if people used less energy-efficient lightbulbs.

      Typical lefty sliming. OK, if that's fair, then let me point out the following: GE stands to make a massive pile of cash off of their sales of CFLs, and they lobbied the Obama admin on many "green" energy issues, they have a very cozy set of ties to the Democratic party and Obama and are the corporate parent of NBC and MSNBC who shill for the Obama admin. Does this mean that GE's or Obama's positions on these issues are suspect or are evidence of corruption?

      Personally, I do not assign a presumption of corruption just because somebody's beliefs and policy positions line-up with their own interests (after all, many of us invest in things and advocate for things we believe in) however I think the public are entitled to know the potential conflicts of interest of everybody on both sides of such debates rather than having just one-side accused like this. Yes, somebody opposing CFLs might stand to profit from removing the ban.... and somebody else might stand to profit from imposing the ban.... But in a nation with freedom and liberty, should we not prefer to have no bans on anything unless the ban is the only reasonable way to prevent significant harm? The bigger problem here is that when governments become so big and so powerful that they freely tamper with everything, there will then appear people who see ways to use that interference as a way to make money for themselves (as GE will do from the imposition of the ban) In fact, some people and businesses will find that they can more-easily make profits by getting the governments to eliminate competing products or technologies, and erecting enough regulatory burdens (that big existing companies can devote the manpower to comply with but upstart businesses will be unable to afford to comply with)

      If CFLs are truly superior, then no subsidies are needed and no bans are needed... market forces will prevail and people will move to them. Any time somebody has to force you to give up product A to get you to use a product B, you are already facing all the proof you need that product B is inferior. This is exactly like the electric car... if and when it is the superior solution, people will switch to it (like they switched from VCRs to DVDs and DVRs, or from horses to cars, or steamships to planes...) but if subsidies or bans are involved then the product being pushed is either not yet ready, not the right replacement.

  • by blair1q (305137) on Friday February 25, 2011 @06:28PM (#35317482) Journal

    There's no reason to force people off of incandescents. If we can find more value in fluorescents we will. It does no good to save pennies a year on energy if we're paying dollars in quality of life. We'll all be using LED bulbs soon, anyway. Much easier to get the colors right there.

  • by GodfatherofSoul (174979) on Friday February 25, 2011 @06:29PM (#35317500)

    By that, I mean there are still places they don't cheaply fill in for incadescents. Like dimming or being able to come to full brightness quickly (for closets, bathrooms, etc). At least, those're the problems I've had with the bulbs I put in about 4 years ago when I bought my house.

  • by sid crimson (46823) on Friday February 25, 2011 @06:29PM (#35317502)

    I don't think I have had a CFL replace an incandescent bulb and last as long as the claim. Thankfully I get them at Costco who lets me trade them in for replacements.

    Also, the light quality isn't that great.

    Sure, they save some eletricity... but I'm not sure I am saving money.

  • by JonySuede (1908576) on Friday February 25, 2011 @06:30PM (#35317524) Journal

    here in the north the heat from the bulb is more than welcome.

  • by joocemann (1273720) on Friday February 25, 2011 @06:31PM (#35317536)

    There are far better ways to promote specific technologies than to ban others. I know that many people will prefer the older tech, and forcing consumers is not a constitutional or even sensible way to achieve energy use goals. My mother is a water color artist, and is concerned with the ban because cfl and led lighting does not provide a natural reference for color like incandescents do. While she does penny pinch and has every light in her house as a cfl, she would like to use an incandescent while painting. She could plug in an electric heater and leave it on all day if she wants, so what's the point of banning the bulbs again???

  • by trainman (6872) on Friday February 25, 2011 @06:31PM (#35317542) Homepage

    And as this 2007 Slashdot story points out:

    http://hardware.slashdot.org/story/07/02/26/1916211/GE-Announces-Advancement-in-Incandescent-Technology

    Governments should mandate efficiency standards, not technology. I'm a bit on the free-market side myself, let the best bulb win, but not with absolutely no ground rules for that fight. If government were to truly stand back and let the market decide everything, cost would almost always win out and we'd have a proliferation of coal power plants and inefficient gas cars lacking almost every kind of pollution control system.

    Government's role is to set the standard, in this case, so many lumen per watt, or however they want to word it, and then let the industry innovate the best technology to meet that goal.

    • by russotto (537200) on Friday February 25, 2011 @06:39PM (#35317658) Journal

      Governments should mandate efficiency standards, not technology.

      That is in fact what the US government did; it's just that the standards are set to the point that incandescents can't meet it. So we're stuck with shitty fluorescents and shitty LEDs (they're shitty for the same reason, the phosphors). I know Phillips was working on HIR capsules within a regular bulb envelope, but I haven't seen one for sale which meets the requirements (some are which do not).

      The GE "advancement" was abandoned [cleanbreak.ca], though likely not before they got enough patents to prevent anyone else from following up on that path.

    • by shutdown -p now (807394) on Friday February 25, 2011 @07:44PM (#35318628) Journal

      State Governments should mandate efficiency standards, not technology.

      Fixed that for you (insofar as it applies to the USA). It shouldn't be a Federal issue.

    • by CmdrPorno (115048) on Friday February 25, 2011 @08:02PM (#35318850)

      They did mandate efficiency, not technology:

      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Phase-out_of_incandescent_light_bulbs#Federal_legislation [wikipedia.org]

      In December 2007, many of these state efforts became moot when the federal government enacted the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007, which requires all general-purpose light bulbs that produce 310–2600 lumens of light[8] be 30% more energy efficient (similar to current halogen lamps) than current incandescent bulbs by 2012 to 2014. The efficiency standards will start with 100-watt bulbs in January 2012 and end with 40-watt bulbs in January 2014.
      Light bulbs outside of this range are exempt from the restrictions (historically, less than 40 Watts or more than 150 Watts). Also exempt are several classes of specialty lights, including appliance lamps, rough service bulbs, 3-way, colored lamps, and plant lights.
      By 2020, a second tier of restrictions would become effective, which requires all general-purpose bulbs to produce at least 45 lumens per watt (similar to current CFLs). Exemptions from the Act include reflector flood, 3-way, candelabra, colored, and other specialty bulbs.[29]

    • by purpledinoz (573045) on Saturday February 26, 2011 @04:31AM (#35322208)
      The best way is for the government to make energy more expensive by taxing it. According to wikipeida [wikipedia.org], Germany's electricity is 3 times more expensive than the US. If you ever go to Germany, you would see that they have already implemented electricity saving measures. Like timed switches on stairwell/hallway lights. CFLs have been widely used for many years. Incandescent bulbs are still sold, but people prefer to buy CFLs because they will save money. Plus, there's the option to use incandescent bulbs if you want to. No government regulation necessary.
  • by jfengel (409917) on Friday February 25, 2011 @06:31PM (#35317544) Homepage Journal

    Enzi's an idiot, and his reasoning specious. ("Oh, no, Chinee right burbs!") But I agree with his goal.

    Banning incandescents is unhelpful and unnecessary. There are places where they're the only solution. Not many, but a few.

    As people install CFLs, demand for incandescents will fall, because they last for a years. (Except in those situations I mentioned in the past paragraph.) It would be nice to push people to do that just once, and finally get them over the "the color wash is slightly different from the one I grew up with so I hate it" excuse. I know I haven't bought a light bulb in years, and probably won't for some time.

    Still, I don't like forcing people. While light bulbs are a contributor to climate change, they're not the biggest part. It was just an easy, visible one, leading to an easy, ham-handed attempt to force people rather than persuade them.

    Mind you, if I'm right, we should already be seeing demand for incandescents fall, at least if not for the confounding factor of hoarders. (Many of whom are doing so because anything a liberal tells them is good must, by definition, be bad. Which is precisely what Mike Enzi has been telling them for years.)

    • by uglyduckling (103926) on Friday February 25, 2011 @06:40PM (#35317678) Homepage
      I think there is an argument for phasing out standard incandescents. For places where CFL won't be a good choice, small halogen bulbs in a glass envelope that fit into a standard fitting are a much better choice, with longer life and better light output. They also work with dimmers. My concern is that legislation in several countries will throw out the baby with the bathwater and ban the more efficient incandescents along with the outdated 40W / 60W non-halogen bulb.
  • by ranulf (182665) on Friday February 25, 2011 @06:35PM (#35317584)
    Well, they've already banned them here in the UK, starting with the 150W, 100W and now 60W are gone too. I think you can still buy 40W until next year, but I haven't seen them in the shops any more.

    I stockpiled a load of 100W ones. The new bulbs have lots of advantages - cheaper to run, so ideal to leave on as a security light, last longer, etc, but although I've replaced about 75% of the lights in my house with CFLs, I absolutely had to stockpile the old ones. The reason? It's simple. CFLs give me a headache. I can't sit underneath one for more than about 10 minutes without getting a headache, so it's fine to have one in the bedroom or bathroom, and it's not too bad in the kitchen, but I'm in the lounge or my office I need a regular incandescent light. It's not a problem for everybody, but sufficient numbers of people are similarly affected that I think it's outrageous the government can legislate such stupid big brother dictats.

    Then there's the fact that they're sold massively below cost to get them adopted. Here, you can often find them for less than 10p per bulb at retail, and nobody is yet really worrying about the environmental costs of disposal because people aren't really throwing them away in any numbers yet. This will be a major problem in a few years though.

    Finally, the usual arguments that the old bulbs are less energy efficient is pretty much redundant. As I mostly use light bulbs during the winter evenings and for a short period on winter mornings, I'll have my heating on anyway. Who cares if 90W of the 100W bulb is emitted as heat - it's making my house warmer. There's even a company in Germany trying to get round the ban by selling "heating globes" that happen to emit light and happen to look exactly like an old lightbulb.

  • by BigFire (13822) on Friday February 25, 2011 @06:35PM (#35317590)

    Afterall, it's quit energy efficient to do that particular job.

    Someone actually start importing it as heat ball.

  • by lapsed (1610061) on Friday February 25, 2011 @06:36PM (#35317596)
    Even if people made rational economic decisions, the market price of electricity doesn't reflect its cost to society. The difference between the social cost of consuming power and the price individuals pay for electricity is huge. Utilities are (for the most part) regulated monopolies. Governments can't raise electricity prices because such a move would be economically unpopular. Instead governments have to keep prices artificially low and then find different ways of reducing consumption. There's no real market for power. But people don't make rational economic decisions. They subordinate long-term rewards for short-term savings.
  • by marcello_dl (667940) on Friday February 25, 2011 @06:36PM (#35317608) Homepage Journal

    In the winter the old incandescent lamp has an efficiency nearing 100% because you use its heat too.
    Why should anybody tell me to use CFL, harder to manufacture and dispose of and in this case less efficient?

    A state wants to preserve environment? Then just factor in the environmental impact of stuff, and add it as tax or whatever. If using something hurts the environment make us pay in advance for the damage. It's a big paradigm shift, but the alternative of half assed measures or fake measures like carbon credits will just continue the current trend which isn't looking very good.
    And if you care for people factor in the social impact of low wages. Then, with high prices for transport and country exploiting their people having their stuff taxed, we will have finally fair competition, and may the best win.

    • by cowboy76Spain (815442) on Friday February 25, 2011 @07:02PM (#35317990)

      It is not only about protecting little furry things. I smell they are more interesting in the energy savings, as in keeping the price of energy low (or at least affordable). And you may say "Let's build more nuclears" or whatever, but energy supply is very inelastic (if you start building a nuclear central today, even without the NIMBY pressure, you'll spend some years before the first watt gets into the grid). So they are trying to ease things in the demand side.

      BTW, other posts well before yours state that the law does not ban any technology, just forces a minimum energy efficiency. If you can get that with a CFL or burning your dog, the better for you.

  • by heypete (60671) <pete@heypete.com> on Friday February 25, 2011 @06:37PM (#35317628) Homepage

    From the summary:

    CFLs are more expensive

    Really? Around here (Tucson, AZ USA) CFLs at Home Depot are less than a dollar each in four-packs (It was something like $3.60/4 bulbs.). I'm not sure if they're more expensive than incandescents (as I've not priced incandescents in years), but they're certainly inexpensive enough that any price difference is trivial.

    All of mine have lasted for years, give off less heat (less AC needed in the summer), and produce satisfactory light for reading and everyday indoor tasks. I don't do indoor photography or anything that requires super-accurate color rendering, but I'm not noticing any deficiencies in the light with just my eyes. With modern ballasts, they don't flicker and reach full brightness within about 5 seconds.

    Short of extreme environments (outdoor lighting in Montana, oven lamps, etc.) and specific purposes (e.g. photography lamps, completely sealed enclosures, garage door openers, security lighting), I don't really see a purpose for incandescent bulbs.

  • by illumnatLA (820383) on Friday February 25, 2011 @06:39PM (#35317646) Homepage

    I'm a TV & Film editor by trade, so I easily notice sub-second motion and flicker. The flicker and the "bad color" of CFLs bugs the hell out of me. I can immediately notice when a room is lit by CFLs vs. good old incandescents.

    I'm all for doing what we can to reduce power consumption, but for me CFLs are not a viable option. I have a hard time working around them. I haven't tried LED light bulbs yet due to them being relatively new on the market... maybe that will be a way to go, but I don't think the incandescent light should be banned wholesale.

    Government is getting carried away with banning things. *reaches over for a ma huang herbal supplement and a clove cigarette* Oh... wait...

    Maybe a added power consumption tax would be appropriate, but not an outright ban.

  • My first CFLs lasted about three years before giving up. Before then they progressively lose their strength and take time to get whatever brightness level they max out at. They are hard to find light that looks "right" as coated bulbs can do little to compensate. They also are horrid in out door situations (low life mainly) and any where vibration can get to them, think garages either in or near the openers.

    So far my three LED lights are just awesome. Good light dispersion and instant on. I have not tried any where the bulb is mounted horizontal, I have a few fixtures in the ceiling like that, but they do work well in my ceiling fan light fixtures and in bathrooms where the lights are pointed down. Haven't found a replacement for the globe lights that frequent bathrooms, I might end up ditching the fixtures.

    Incandescent bulbs still have better variety in spectrum but outside of that I can think of only a few specialized uses their secondary effect; heat; warrants keeping them. OK, cost is their major benefit - at least up front cost.

    I am all for keeping them on the death list as I hope it kicks LEDs makers into high gear. We can hope that Wal Mart decides to get behind LED lights like they did for CFLs, they seemed almost responsible for their overnight abundance and price drop. Having made such a big push on those bulbs I hope to see the repeat.

  • by kuzb (724081) on Friday February 25, 2011 @06:43PM (#35317724)
    He's assuming that the best product will win through market acceptance - but it's fairly common for sub-par products to beat out the "best" products due to various factors such as cost, and amount of advertising. Think about it - how else can you explain American domestic beer? People buy it by the boatload even though it's swill.
  • by Wansu (846) on Friday February 25, 2011 @06:51PM (#35317826)

    Besides the higher cost, the mercury content and being made in China (which is probably true of most incandescent bulbs today too), there are other drawbacks.

    At least one poster has cited reliability. There's fine print on most CFLs warning of reduced life if placed in an enclosed fixture. There are no such limitations on incandescent bulbs.

    I've had a half dozen go bad during the past few years. None were in an enclosed fixture. I don't recall ever going through that many incandescent bulbs. One made a snap-crackle-pop noise when it went out and it's base was too hot to touch, raising concerns of the fire safety of these products.

    The power factor of CFLs is about 0.44 leading. The power company must supply the vars for this free. They can only charge us for watts and can't charge for reactive power. Incandescent bulbs have a power factor of nearly unity.

  • by cvtan (752695) on Friday February 25, 2011 @07:04PM (#35318012)
    I have had many CFL lamps fail in a matter of weeks or DAYS in some cases. I think many are just cheaply made; they go out, you hit them, they come on for a while. Color temperature is not always appropriate. Also you are not supposed to use them in an application where you flick them on, leave them on for a few seconds and then turn them off. Many applications are like this: closet light, basement light, fridge light. Some take a few minutes to reach full brightness although this improves with age. Also, use outdoors in frigid weather is a problem. I have changed most of my house lights to CFLs, but there are some decorative candelabra-base fixtures where you can't use them. Be aware that any electricity savings will necessarily be countered by rate increases so we're not doing this to save money, just electrons.
  • by szyzyg (7313) on Friday February 25, 2011 @07:05PM (#35318032)

    I see the CFL = Mercury thing all the time and frankly it's avoiding the fact that the power savings from replacing an Incandescent with a CFL mean you take less power, burn less coal and release less mercury into the air.

    Here's the math:
    Take a 100w bulb and replace it with a 17W CFL - average lifetime of a CFL is about 10,000 hours. So that 83w power difference over 10,000 hours is 3 gigajoules. Coal power content is about 33 megajoules per kilogram - so that works out to about 90kilograms of coal over the lifetime of the bulb. Mercury content varies but about 10 parts/million is a reasonable average - so that pile of coal will contain about 900 miligrams of mercury. CFL's contain about 5milligrams (although there are 'eco friendly' bulbs that contain less than a milligram.

    Now, there are other factors, firstly the fuel cycle of power plants isn't 100% so the amount of coal will be higher, on the other hand, in the US only about 50% of the electrical power comes from coal.

    Regardless - Incandescents are *worse* in terms of mercury pollution, and anyone telling you otherwise is either misinformed or lying.

  • by starfishsystems (834319) on Friday February 25, 2011 @07:25PM (#35318376) Homepage
    So apparently 84% of US adults are happy with CFLs. Then again, 84% of US adults have an IQ less than 116.
  • by MobyDisk (75490) on Friday February 25, 2011 @07:50PM (#35318708) Homepage

    If 71% of the people are buying them already, why do we need a ban on the old product? CFL bulbs won in the market, with the exception of some specific cases where CFLs are not an option. So the ban is unnecessary.

  • by Quiet_Desperation (858215) on Friday February 25, 2011 @08:04PM (#35318876)

    many contain mercury which can be harmful even in the smallest amounts

    Wow, so a single atom of mercury can harm me, huh? That's the official smallest amount.

    Well, if it's philosopher's mercury I guess it could start a cascade of phlogiston releases in my precious boldly pneuma.

  • by shentino (1139071) on Friday February 25, 2011 @08:25PM (#35319086)

    The free market is the best method of deciding things, but it can't do the job by itself.

    Externalities can skew things, and a public good, such as the environment, that everyone is free to pollute to the detriment of all without paying individually.

    Representing the public good is properly the role of the government.

  • by the_rajah (749499) * on Friday February 25, 2011 @10:44PM (#35320286) Homepage
    What about the lamps in my ovens? Are there little CFLs or LEDs that work at 500 F?

    I live in the Midwest so outdoor lights in the Winter present a problem. My work-around for the outdoor light by our back door is to just turn it on in the Fall and leave it on. So far so good. My front outdoor lights are the candelabra base bulbs shaped like a flame. I haven't seen anything suitable as a replacement for those so I bought a case of them and hope the supply outlasts me or that the technology improves.

    We have a number of recessed lights in our home office, kitchen, hallways and bathroom. I've tried a number of different flood lamp shaped CFLs and have had uniformly bad luck with very slow start-up times. Particularly in hallways and the bathroom it's unacceptable. I've experimented with some LED flood lamps in the back hallway leading to the garage and they start OK with about a second of delay versus a minute or two for the CFLs, but they produce harsh bluish light that is not acceptable in an actual living area. Sooo... I've stocked up on incandescent flood lamps, too.

    I definitely like the idea of more efficient lighting, especially in the Summer when the extra heat is even less desirable, but it's got to be affordable and look good. We seem to have a way to go on both counts. I would prefer to let the market decide rather than have non-technical legislators shove this down our throats, but why should this be different than other legislation?

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