Return of the Monkish Virtues

The era of the 100 watt incandescent light bulb came to an end in America on January 1st. Lower wattages will soon join them in a phaseout over time. As I noted previously, this will mean factory shutdowns in the United States and the migration of the light bulb manufacturing industry to China. The most common replacement type bulbs, compact fluorescents, are not “instant on,” generally fail to provide a proper light spectrum, contain poisonous mercury, and burn out sooner than advertised. CFL boosters claim none of these are real problems and that CFLs are a slam dunk for benefit/cost reasons, but the cold reality is that despite significant promotion, they never received widespread consumer adoption voluntarily. Given how eagerly consumers slurp up even bona fide more expensive products like Apple computers when they are perceived to be superior, I’m inclined to think the consumers are on to something. I’ve tried out CFLs myself and thought they basically sucked.

The supposed rationale for imposing an inferior product that did not receive the desired traction in the the marketplace is to prevent climate change. I went searching to try to find exactly what the impact of light bulbs on greenhouse gas emissions was and have found it quite difficult to obtain. The various sites touting CFLs all note the high output of CO2 from electricity generation generally, how much CO2 changing this or that bulb will save, etc, but as for what a wholesale elimination of light bulbs would achieve, that’s harder to find.

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