Sunday, March 24, 2013

Light Bulbs: Federal Bureaucracy Bombs Again

Erika Johnson of Hot Air writes to give us another example of how Big Brother invariably gets it wrong when telling the American public what is good for them, and uses lighting technology, specifically the light bulb, to explain why.

We were first mandated to do away with incandescent lights in favor of the government 'experts' demand that we buy compact fluorescent bulbs, the ones that give off that cold, eerie, uncomfortable light and, as she explains it, "are impractical, more expensive, and it turns out they might actually be a cancer risk, no big deal or anything."  Not to mention the damage to the environment caused by the same vaporized mercury that is a key part of the bulb.  Then there is that annoying wait time for the bulb to warm up to become bright enough for human eyes – I have had to install one outdoors, and my routine in the evening is to turn it on, then attend to another chore to give it enough time to be sufficiently bright to take out the trash.

And the government's response to inquiries about these health and environmental concerns; the plan for properly disposing of them?  Well, nothing really – it didn't occur to them that there was such a problem when the CFLs were mandated in order to help save the planet.  By law, you practically have to file an environmental impact statement in order to get rid of them.

So what is our alternative? 

Why, that would be the LED lights that do so well in flashlights, smart phone camera flashes, and indicator lights on electronics.  There are light bulbs as well now. Consumers have been deterred by their high cost, but it is almost a law of economics that the cost of electronics and technology decreases over time, and that applies here as well.  She cites the New York Times: 
. . . LED bulbs are a gigantic improvement over incandescent bulbs and even the compact fluorescents or CFLs, that the world spent several years telling us to buy. 
Funny way to put it, isn't it: the "world"?  What the 'newspaper of record' means to say is that it was the federal government through the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007 that mandated that we do as we are told by buying the CFLs.  As usual, the market does a far better job than a centrally controlled economy by appealing, as Adam Smith put it so well many years ago, to the people's rational self-interest. 
LEDs last about 25 times as long as incandescents and three times as long as CFLs; we're talking maybe 25,000 hours of light.  Install one today, and you may not own your house, or even live, long enough to see it burn out. … 
You know how hot incandescent bulbs become.  That's because they convert only 5 to 10 percent of your electricity into light; they waste the rest as heat.  LED bulbs are far more efficient.  They convert 60 percent of their electricity into light, so they consume far less electricity. … 
The one Home Depot nearby (the local apparatchiki at the city and county level are loathe to allow other 'box stores' as competition because they're, you know, exploitative) lists 40-watt LED bulbs at $9.97, and 60-watt versions at $12.97.

The great Walter Russell Mead picks up the story too. 
LED bulbs turn on to full brightness instantly.  They're dimmable.  The light color is wonderful; you can choose whiter or warmer bulbs.  They're rugged too.  It's hard to break an LED bulb, but if the worst should come to pass, a special coating prevents flying shards. 
He concludes, as does any person of common sense, that "we don't need the Commissar of Home Lighting that foisted mercury-laden CFLs on us to now promote LEDs."  The market is doing that on its own.

Now if only we could get rid of the Al Gore toilets.

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