June 28, 2010

No Light Bulb at the End of the Tunnel

Hatched by Dafydd

The Obamunists in Congress and in the administration are still on track to effectively ban all incandescent light bulbs by 2014, in yet another self-congratulatory scheme to stave off global warming.

Think I'm joshing?

Press coverage has described federal law on incandescents as a "ban," although this is not strictly true. The Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007 raised efficiency standards for "general service" incandescent lamps, the light bulb known to millions. The targets will take full effect in 2014.

However, these standards are high enough that incandescents used today -- which basically resemble the one designed by Thomas Edison in 1879 and perfected by General Electric in 1906 -- won't make the grade.

The U.S. phaseout parallels efforts in other wealthy countries, as well as some developing countries, to reduce incandescent use or ban them outright.

Ultimately, those politicos that Jonah Goldberg calls "liberal fascists," who have exiled God and worship health care and environmentalism in His place, want to force us all to use those God-awful compact fluorescent bulbs.

I suppose some like them, but I despise them:

  • They flicker.
  • They produce an audible buzz (at least, I can hear it).
  • If you drop them, they have enough mercury that you should probably call a HazMat team and evacuate.
  • A 150-watt equivalent costs about $13-$15, compared to $6-$7 for a regular incandescent or $9-$10 for a halogen.
  • But worst of all, they produce a sallow, sickly light that makes food look spoiled and people look jaundiced.

Fluorescents make me feel physically ill; the flickering plus the color give me headaches and nausea. But I suppose that won't bother President Barack H. Obama; I should simply turn to the government "option" to prescribe Motrin and anti-emetics.

We still have a chance to overturn this policy; there are two elections before the final rules go into effect, and one of them can remove the Incandescer-in-Chief himself. For right now, halogen bulbs -- which are modified, more efficient incandescents and don't have the problems enumerated above -- can still meet the new standards; but those standards will continue to tighten until nothing but fluorescents will ever pass:

Paul Simonetti, a spokesman for Philips, said its "Halogena" has been out for a few years; it is about a third more efficient than standard bulbs and costs about $4. But when standards are raised in 2014, he said, Halogena won't have much time left.

"The halogen, which is a good replacement right now, actually would not meet the standard in 2020," he said. "The long-term solutions are in LEDs. That's what we see."

Now, I would love to be able to buy LED bulbs that have the same light output as 100-watt (1250 to 1600 lumens) and 150-watt (2000 lumens) bulbs; they don't flicker, they last far longer than any other kind of bulb, they don't buzz, they contain no poisons (at least not in significant quantities), they're even cooler than fluorescents, and they can be tuned to any color spectrum desired.

But at the moment, this is a typical Obamic fantasy solution: First, you can't even buy LED lights brighter than the equivalent of 60 watts... and even that is even more hideously expensive than fluorescents -- the cheapest I've seen them is still in excess of $40 a throw. (That's for a bulb that illuminates in all directions, like a normal, Edison-style, incandescent. Directed-beam bulbs are cheaper, but they're more like flashlights.)

The limitation derives from the technology: All manufacturers can presently do to make an LED brighter is to pack a bunch of them in a globe-shaped lump.

They need to be able to make each individual LED significantly brighter in order actually to compete with incandescents. Either that, or get the government to make incandescents even more overpriced than LEDs by taxing the heck out of them, or simply banning them outright. This is, not surprisingly, the tack the Obama administration has chosen to sail.

I am optimistic that the technology curve will eventually bring LED prices down as demand increases, triggering a huge increase in production; but I don't believe LEDs, compact fluorescents, or halogens will ever be as cheap, bulb for bulb, as ordinary incandescents. It must be said, though, that over the long haul, all three are more cost-effective, given their longer lifespans (assuming you don't accidentally damage or destroy them).

However, I am not at all optimistic that LEDs with the lumens I demand for lighting in my house (we like it bright, b'dad!) will be available before the bulb-grabbers take away my incandescents.

In this sense, the Obamunists are consistent: When they ban some technology for the sin of being insufficiently "green," they never worry whether a replacement is available; it's enough that some technology exists, at least in theory, that will eventually be just as good -- under the most optimistic possible fairyland scenarios. Thus, they want to ban fossil fuels and nuclear power now, on the supposition that sometime in the distant future, technology elves will invent ludicrously efficient solar cells and windmills to replace today's power plants.

Alas, this means that we're in for a number of years in which incandescents are already banned, but LEDs not yet ready for prime time. I think I must begin hoarding halogens; maybe I can stockpile enough to last me through the seven lean years.

I'm most irritated by the ease with which societal planners declare themselves to be seers and oracles (or Obamacles, in this case). This is my stock in trade; believe me, there's more to being a "futurist" than watching Captain Eo a couple hundred times at Disneyland. You actually have to, you know, think about the future and how you can bring it about in the real world, step by step, taking all constraints of cost, availability, and opportunity into account, and understanding that you can no more command scientific innovation to adhere to a timetable than King Canute could order the tides in and out.

Lennon-ism notwithstanding, it's not enough simply to "imagine" a world of unicorns and free lunches.

Cross-posted on Hot Air's rogues' gallery...

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, June 28, 2010, at the time of 6:19 PM

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Listed below are links to weblogs that reference No Light Bulb at the End of the Tunnel:

» Dim Bulbs from Finding Ponies...
Here’s one that’s bugged me for a while, I think I’ve commented on it before.  The NY Times Climatewire had an article yesterday on the incandescent bulb, and Big Lizards (also available at the Green Room) took it on as well.  First, ... [Read More]

Tracked on June 29, 2010 8:32 AM


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