Baseball Crank
Covering the Front and Back Pages of the Newspaper
April 10, 2008
POLITICS/SCIENCE: Toxic Bulbs

I've thought from the very beginning that the move to outlaw Edison's great invention, the incandescent light bulb, was basically foolhardy and possibly just a ploy to force consumers to buy $7 lightbulbs that (in my experience, at least) don't necessarily last much longer than regular bulbs. But that was before I really started to focus on the extent to which (as discussed here and here) the mercury in the bulbs presents a real health hazard that wasn't previously present in the home, and which - like the now-infamous introduction of MTBE into gasoline (also, at the time, claimed to be an environmental measure) is probably going to end up getting pulled off the market after the plaintiffs' personal injury bar gets done with it. Government's natural tendency to folly is exponentially enhanced by runaway environmentalism divorced from common sense.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 11:46 PM | Politics 2008 • | Science | Comments (9) | TrackBack (0)
Comments

Call me a stockpiler. I recently spent approximately $150.00 on incandescents of varying wattage, and every week, I buy another 4 pack (60's 75's 100's, 3 ways, recessed, you name it. I tried the CFL's when they first came out and the hype had not started. My wife did not just nix them, but actually unscrewed and tossed all of them out (and did not recycle).

Now that Congress, Algore, and every frontrunning advertizer for the Giants, A's, Kings, Sharks and Pac 10 is in my face to buy CFL's, I'm doing the opposite just to enjoy the spite. My goal is to have enough to eventually profit in 2012 when the ban goes into effect.

One thing Edison did not do was to petition Congress to outlaw candles or gaslamps.

Posted by: NRA Life Member at April 11, 2008 9:51 AM

OK, history lesson here: Thomas Edison was "an" inventor of the light bulb, but not the first. That honor belongs to Joseph Swan. Edison did come up with a bulb, but what he really did was develop an electrical delivery system. The remnants are still in some older buildings in lower Manhattan (some really beautiful mahogany DC transformers are there). It's not called Con Edison because of some town in Jersey.

And as for Edison not petitioning Congress? He didn't care about candles and gas lamps, but he did about better electrical methods. He did his level best with the media in trying to keep Tesla and Westinghouse out of his business. They developed the AC method of electrical delivery. We use that because it is way superior to Edison's DC. Go back and read some of the things he pulled; even then it was not exactly ethical. The marketplace won then, and will now too.

But NRA, you are dead on about fluorescent bulbs. I've tried them; they take forever to warm up, and they last barely a third longer than incandescents. So it's a dead end technology. My money is on LEDs.

Posted by: Daryl Rosenblatt at April 11, 2008 10:04 AM

Good points all Daryl. I seem to remember through the haze that Edison developed the electric chair as a way to prove that Westinghouse's AC powerplants were dangerous (when compared to Edison's DC).

Daryl, you should see my light bulb closet. I look like a survivalist.

Posted by: NRA Life Member at April 11, 2008 12:19 PM

The mercury issue is a little disturbing, but as another poster noted, LED's may resolve it. But I won't just chalk it up to improper government interference in the marketplace. It's simply a factor to be weighed in terms of the costs and benefits of the policy. If the following data from ledsmagazine.com is to be believed:

"Annual energy demand for lighting would be reduced by the equivalent of the generating capacity of 30 nuclear power plants or up to 80 coal burning power plants."

This sounds great, if it's true. Think of the national security implications for reducing our energy demand. Although the law is clearly intended to be environmental, it also has benefits for national security.


Posted by: MVH at April 11, 2008 12:57 PM

Although the national security component of energy savings mostly is about oil, and the savings here would largely not be in reduced oil use.

If not for the mercury, I'd be all in favor of government encouraging people to use these bulbs, though I'm still uncomfortable with just banning the old standby, especially since CFLs produce demonstrably (to my eyes) inferior light.

Posted by: The Crank at April 11, 2008 1:06 PM

Yes, I definitely agree the lighting is not quite up to par yet with the old-fashioned. The warm-up times aren't great either. I'm willing to put up with it for the sake of the energy savings, but it's certainly not a perfect situation. I'm hoping that the greater demand for energy-efficient bulbs resulting from the law will lower the prices and spur innovations.

Posted by: MVH at April 11, 2008 1:57 PM

There are problems with fluorescent bulbs regarding people with certain neurological disorders--they can;t handle the light they produce

Posted by: ironman at April 11, 2008 7:28 PM

Iron, the problem is they flicker. So do candles for that matter. The problem is, nobody looks at this issue holistically. Not just how much energy is saved in using the bulbs, but how much is spent in making and disposing of them. Hybrid cars are a great case in point. They use a lot less gas, but what is the cost in making them? Especially those high in nickel batteries. And in changing those batteries out in a few years. It may still be worth it, but we don't know yet, do we?

Ralph Nader made our cars a lot safer (yes he really did), but he also made them a lot, and I mean a lot, heavier. Which is why the mileage of these 4 wheeled computers is no better than two decades ago. The laws of unintended consequences are merciless.

Posted by: Daryl Rosenblatt at April 12, 2008 10:58 AM

Yep, it's remarkable GM's current midsize sedans are no more fuel efficient today than my 1993 Pontiac Grand Prix was (19 city; 30 highway)

Posted by: ironman at April 12, 2008 5:30 PM
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