Michael Hanlon skewers light bulb Eurobureaucrats

A columnist for the UK’s Daily Mail, Michael Hanlon explains how foolish it is for European bureaucrats to ban incandescent light bulbs:

It’s all so dispiriting — and so utterly illogical.

For while no one disputes that we must all do our bit to save energy and conserve resources, from a scientific perspective this piece of legislation is so wrong, muddle-headed and infuriating that it is hard to know where to begin.

First, banning light bulbs on eco grounds is simply greenwash — a meaningless nod to environmental correctness that will have no measurable impact on the planet whatsoever.

Supporters of the ban claim that by eliminating incandescent bulbs entirely Europe could ‘save’ as much as 15 million tonnes of carbon dioxide every year.

Even if that figure is correct (which is dubious to say the least) it is a mere sneeze in a hurricane compared to the four billion tonnes of CO2 produced by the EU every year.

Put simply, banning 100W bulbs while still allowing, say, aircraft to fly, cars to drive or power stations to burn coal is an exercise in pointless meddling, officiousness and bureaucracy that will save not a single polar bear….

To see why, we need to understand how these new ecobulbs work.

The most popular variety, Compact Fluorescent Lamps (CFLs), are simply coiled-up fluorescent tubes, identical in the technology they use to the strip-lights that have been common in the workplace for decades.

In theory, it’s a far more energy-efficient way of producing light. While only 5 per cent of the energy drawn by a conventional bulb is actually turned into light (the rest is wasted heating the bulb), CFLs turn as much as 20 per cent of the energy they consume into light.

But there is a problem — several problems, in fact. Perhaps most seriously, some experts doubt the touted energy savings for CFLs. To work efficiently they need to be left on for long periods to allow the bulb to reach full brightness — negating any CO2 savings if light is only needed for a short time.

Replacing all the lights in a busy office or shop with CFLs may make some sense; but in the home, where lights may be needed for only a few minutes at a time, the green argument is less valid.

Then there is the important fact that CFLs are simply not very good.

The manufacturers claim that today’s generation of CFL bulbs are so good that ‘no one can tell the difference’, but this simply is not so.

Whatever it may claim on the box, CFLs simply do not give out the same amount of light as an incandescent bulb — something verified by independent tests.

For example, one consumer comparison published at the weekend showed that while traditional clear 60W bulbs provided around 120 lux of illumination the comparable CFL substitutes produced, at best, 79 lux and, at worst, just 60 lux, depending on the brand — and that was after they were given a 10-minute ‘warm up’.

You have probably experience this at home yourselves. I know I have.

Turning on the CFL ‘light’ above our dining table is a process now described in sarcastic terms not as switching the light on but ‘switching the dark on’.

Small wonder, then, that CFLs are despised by those, such as artists and illustrators, whose job depends on a good quality of light.

What’s worse, the new bulbs work badly in cold weather, usually do not work at all with dimmer switches (though there now are expensive versions which do) and simply do not fit into many existing light fittings.

Then there are the potential health risks: the small amount of mercury vapour contained in each CFL bulb is toxic.

And many people claim that the high-frequency ‘flickering’ of these eco-bulbs gives them headaches, exacerbates skin conditions and can trigger epileptic fits.

Even if we accept that some of these risks have been exaggerated, it seems strange suddenly to force people to use a product about which so many consumers are unhappy….

Replacing a perfectly good technology with one that is far more expensive, of dubious environmental merit and that simply does not work as well as the old one is an extraordinary retrograde step.

Shoppers all over the European Union are stocking up on incandescent light bulbs while they’re still available, clearing the shelves in stores across the continent.

Similar madness is coming to the United States, but it’s not too late to reverse course.  Send your used compact fluorescent light bulbs to your Congressman or Senator in Washington, along with a note telling them you think they should repeal the upcoming ban on incandescent light bulbs.

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4 Comments

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4 responses to “Michael Hanlon skewers light bulb Eurobureaucrats

  1. Even if the lights take a while to get to full brightness, that doesn’t seem to me to negate the energy savings over standard bulbs, as you asserted in paragraph 10. Still, I like some of your other points, and do not at all support the notion that the government should make you use these bulbs if you don’t want to.

    Freedom is important, and making choices for yourself should be a right, not a “privilege”.

    I use the bulbs all over my house and have for over 3 years. I have noticed a real difference in my monthly electricity bill as a result. For me, I choose to use them. I don’t want to MAKE you use them, though. =)

  2. Foolish for the European bureaucrats to ban?
    No, it’s even worse: By applying just a little bit of enhanced imaging intelligence, the EU’s pro-CFL propaganda was recently proven to have East German, i.e. COMMUNIST, roots:

    http://otitismediamc.wordpress.com/2009/08/29/eussrstamps/

  3. Sherri

    I think it is a brilliant idea to send our used light bulbs to Washington. Maybe the uproar in Europe will change some minds here in the United States. In the meantime, our family is stocking up on the incandescent light bulbs.

  4. It’s not just a freedom of choice either…
    (noting that ALL known incandescents, including the Halogen replacement types, are banned in the USA before 2020 and the EU before 2016)

    but also, as plenty of research has shown before and since,
    the supposed savings are not there either:
    less than 1% of overall energy use, and 1-2% grid electricity is saved,
    as shown by USA Dept of Energy, EU statistics and other official information

    http://ceolas.net/#li171x

    with alternative and much more meaningful ways to save energy in
    generation, distribution or consumption.

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