Go Toward the Light. Not the Bulb, the Light.

Endangered species? The incandescent light bulb is not only still here, but has become the latest side show in an increasingly demented national shriekfest. (Photo by James Bowe/Flickr)

The recent Congressional kerfuffle over light bulbs — please do not refer to it as a “debate” — would have been funny if Jon Stewart had staged it for The Daily Show (“For the latest, here is our Senior Light Bulb Correspondent…”). Instead it was a performance staged by the senior legislators of the United States, a country beset by multiple threats to its continued existence (it’s a long list, to be sure, but light bulbs are not on it), and as such it was simply terrifying.

The Knuckle-Dragging Know-Nothings (as their party is affectionately known here) burned thousands of legislator-hours spewing nonsense about an imaginary threat to the supposed freedoms of American consumers. The socialist, control-freak government of President Obama, they said, was trying to ban the sale of good-old-American incandescent light bulbs, and was going to force everyone to buy socialist, alien-looking fluorescent light bulbs.

The first — and really, the only — thing that needs to be said about this claim is that it is a lie. It’s not a mis-statement, or a misinterpretation or an exaggeration or “just politics” — it’s a lie. A minute with Google will demonstrate to anyone who wants to know, that it is a lie, bald-faced and entire. Like the “death squads” that were going to be empowered by health-care reform to dispatch Grandma, and the secret Obama plot to confiscate every body’s guns, it is a fabrication. But after being trumpeted abroad by legions of K-D,K-N politicians and the K-D,K-N media (Fox news and the Wall Street Journal), it will no doubt soon be proclaimed as the considered opinion of 30-50 per cent of Americans, and 99 per cent of Republican presidential-primary voters.

This all began with an energy bill passed in 2007 that took a small step toward restraining industrial greed and reducing the amount of energy wasted. It gave the light bulb industry five years to improve the efficiency of its products. Now it is true that many of the cheap and inefficient incandescent bulbs then on the market, the ones that emit more heat than light, would not have met the 2012 efficiency standards (which are for 100-watt bulbs only, other bulbs come under regulation in subsequent one-year intervals). But just like the auto makers who swore it was impossible to improve gas mileage, and then immediately did it; who swore it would be prohibitively expensive to improve safety, and then it wasn’t; the light bulb industry immediately (on final passage of the legislation) brought to market an array of more efficient halogen, LED and incandescent bulbs that meet the new standards.

So it is a lie to say that the government is banning incandescent light bulbs, or taking them off the market, or that it is forcing people to buy compact fluorescent bulbs (CFLs). It is also a lie to claim that the CFLs have dangerous amounts of mercury in them; it amounts to one per cent of the mercury found in a thermometer, and tests have shown that maximum exposure to a broken CFL amounts to the dose of mercury you get from eating a tiny morsel of tuna. Yet the kerfuffle goes on.

The next question is, whom are these K-D, K-N politicians representing? And whom are the K-D, K-N media serving? It’s not the industry, not this time. The lighting manufacturers are happy with the legislation, happy with the opportunities opening up to them and with consumer acceptance of their innovative new lights, they don’t want anything to do with this kerfuffle.

The fact is that there is no rational answer. The fact is that a large number of people in government are these days expressing an hysterical, even maniacal, hatred of government, and in a mad. destructive frenzy they are doing whatever they can to tear down government restraints on polluters, exploiters, financial manipulators, speculators, gamblers, wealthy people and large corporations. But this frenzy that started with the understanding that the gratitude of the rich would be expressed in the form of campaign donations has taken on a life of its own, has turned into a mob that is no longer thinking, it is just destroying.

This mob is currently at the helm of the United States Congress. It is time to be very afraid.


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2 Responses to Go Toward the Light. Not the Bulb, the Light.

  1. Pearl says:

    I don’t know what you would consider “prohibitively expensive” but there’s no question that mandated vehicle mileage, emission and safety features have added very substantially to the cost of cars – possibly as much as 30-50%. While the safety features have made car crashes more survivable, there’s some real question as to whether they have brought about any real safety improvements, since I understand that people compensate for the safer car by driving more recklessly. Meanwhile, the higher cost of newer safer cars necessarily must make it harder to replace older and presumably less safe cars. I believe most of the improvement in traffic injury stats is attributable to higher use of the lowest cost safety feature – seat belts – and the improvements in trauma medicine, not the more expensive car safety mandates like air bags.

    Ironically, I seriously doubt that the expected energy savings from the new more efficient bulbs will materialize to the degree expected, either. In most of the country, winter is both cold and dark. The heat savings of a CFL bulb will be offset by the higher heat use from other heat sources. It’s just like the people who tell me it’s better to cook a stew in the microwave than the oven for “energy savings.” Who cooks stew in the summer? (Well, actually, I do on occasion but to keep the house cool I usually use a solar oven.) And in the winter, the oven heat is just part of what it takes to keep the house tolerably warm. If I didn’t have the oven on, I’d have the heat turned up higher.

    But, then, what do I know? I probably count as a KD-KN. The law of unintended consequences was doubtless repealed between 2008 and 2010, when the party of all wisdom had control of both the White House and Congress.

    • Tom Lewis says:

      Your factoids are wide of the mark, Pearl, and seriously. Can you provide any sources for the “30-50%,” which is not credible? How about substantiating no “real safety improvements,” with the death toll from auto accidents at an all time low? Likewise, your energy savings notions are just that — notions. Discussion is welcome here, as you can see, but it must be reality-based.