None Too Bright

George Will looks at some of the perils of the new compact flourescent lightbulb. I can attest from personal experience to the fact that the bulbs are prone to burning out quickly despite the alleged long life that comes with their hefty price tag, and to the slow warm-up times and generally inferior quality of the light produced (Megan McArdle notices a similar trend with other supposedly ‘green’ products). All of which, of course, is why the force of the law will be required to outlaw Edison’s great invention by 2014.

11 thoughts on “None Too Bright”

  1. Its almost like the people advancing these policies are just lying and fear mongering.

  2. George Will a fraud! And this from a guy who takes his marching orders from a failed sportscaster, now that is rich.

  3. Dave,
    That’s the way. Address the substance and don’t go for the personal attack. Crank believes the right just does not do that.
    Oh, here’s a little secret. There is no one on he left who gives marching orders. That is a figment of the right’s misguided imagination.

  4. I’m not a compact fluorescent fan. I think the mercury issues are too volatile. However, please remember that it’s WalMart pushing them more than anybody. Meaning the marketplace is deciding. What? You suddenly don’t believe that anymore?
    My own guess is LEDs will be the real answer to an improved light bulb. Think of the incandescent as Light 1.0; the compact fluorescent as Light 1.5; the LED will be Light 2.0.
    Oh Crank, history lesson. Edison did not invent the light bulb, (well Limelight was first), but it was Joseph Swann who did. What Edison invented (besides a zillion ways to not make a bulb) was invent an electrical delivery system, complete with all the patents to provide DC power. Then Tesla and Westinghouse came along to do it better (AC), and Edison fought it at every turn.

  5. Daryl – I have no quarrel with Wal-Mart selling things; there’s no law that says I have to buy it. Until 2014, when they outlaw the alternative.
    Magrooder – So, you dispute the facts cited by Will, all of which come from the NYT? As it happens, I’m no fan of George Will, but I don’t see you arguing that he has any of his facts wrong on the lightbulbs.

  6. I’ve used compact flourescents. They aren’t as bright as advertised, so I’ve generally replaced 40-watt conventional bulbs with 60-watt equivalent CFBs. And the slow warm-up time annoyed me initially, but now I’m used to it. After a bit over a year, I’ve only had one of them burn out, where I was changing a bulb in my kitchen fixtures every month. And my electric bill is noticeably lower. The technology isn’t perfect, and I’m not excited about the government trying to mandate it, but it does have some benefits.

  7. We have some compact flourescents. They’re ok but they are terrible to read with. To read in an otherwise dark room or house, one needs intense, focused light and CFs don’t provide that.

  8. I don’t mind this law. I’m not thrilled with their performance either, but thankfully, the law is not crafted to mandate only CF bulbs. It’s law that gives an incentive for companies to innovate and guarantees a demand for them. Maybe LED’s will be the answer. If we have to suffer for a few years until a great product comes out, then so be it.
    There are times when I think it is appropriate for the government to say “make do with less,” and this is one of them. Whatever you want to think about climate change and all that, energy is a legitimate national security issue, so I don’t mind this one.

  9. Some feebleminded random thoughts: I have had about a 20% failure rate with CFLs, but one has burned 24/7 for at least 7 years. They seem to fail immediately after installation. I chalk it up to poor quality control in China. The CFLs emit much more light for the same wattage as bulbs and I really like that. If there is a blue tinge to the light like fluorescents, I can’t see it. It doesn’t bother me to read by them. Bulbs in my house only last 2-3 weeks before burning out, so, IMO the CFL is a better product. Biggest drawback after the failure rate is that a CFL can’t be installed in some light fixtures due to the large ballast.

  10. Crank,
    It is not a question of “disputing facts” provided by Will as the fact that they are irrelevant. EPA, along with state environmental agencies, all have catgories of “common” wastes for which they promulgate management requirements. These wastes include consumer elctronics, batteries, used oil, pesticides, household paints, bleach, etc.; really any item that contains toxic metals or chemicals.
    Products containing mercury, like the bulbs cited by Will, are also covered. In the real world, as opposed to EPA’s world, very few people even know about the requirements, let alone follow them. In any case, the contstruction and operation requirements for municipal landfills are such that there is vanishingly small risk from ordinary disposal of these items.
    So, yes, Will can make fun of regulatory language that seems over the top, but his point is trivial at most.

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