Saving You From Socialist Light Bulbs by Saving You From Pesky Facts

CBN is complaining about “light bulb socialism”, asking whether the replacement of traditional incandescent bulbs (they’ve been with us 130 years by God so they’ve got to be good!) by new CFL (compact fluorescent lamp) bulbs is an energy-saving move or a government power grab (you get the pun). Here is the spiel in brief:

Brave Republicans consumed by patriotism are battling in Congress to save Americans and their 100-watt incandescent bulbs from the vile Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007.

What you won’t read anywhere in the article is that it was Republican president George W. Bush who signed this act into law, not Barack Obama. What they also will not tell you is that light bulbs were only a small part of the 822-page bill. Also covered in the legislation was improved fuel economy for cars, new requirements for federal vehicle fleets through improved emission standards and gas consumption, increased production of biofuels, the reduction of energy use in Federal buildings by 30 percent come 2015 and overhauling America’s energy infrastructure – the Smart Grid.

But it’s the light bulbs that freak out Republicans. So let’s talk about light bulbs.

Watch the video from CBN:

These are supposedly the sum-total of the positive aspects of the CFL bulb as presented by CBN:

The law requires basic light bulbs to be about 25 percent more efficient and would remove traditional incandescent bulbs from the market.

“I think it’s very wise because maybe 40 or 50 years ago, it wouldn’t have worked because there weren’t alternatives,” Sandra Miles, a veteran of the telecommunications and lighting industries and president of the Goeken Group Corp., told CBN News.

“But now you have plenty of great energy efficient alternatives that give you the same look and feel of an incandescent,” she explained.

Those alternatives primarily fall into two categories: CFLs, known for their curly shape, and light-emitting diodes or LEDs. They’re supposed to save energy and last a lot longer than traditional light bulbs.

The Cons, of course, say CBN, far outweigh the pro’s and here they bring in Howard Brandston who says he “isn’t ready to give up on a bulb that’s not broken.” Brandston, they point out, has lit the Statue of Liberty and Malaysia’s twin towers so he’s a man who knows what he’s talking about, unlike, say, some flaming liberal. And what Brandston wants is Edison’s invention. To accomplish his goal he has launched a campaigned called Save the Bulb. For those of you who follow the Dirty Thirty, his defense of Edison might come across as a little odd: “Look at all the people who have lost their homes,” he told CBN News. “Look at all the people who are out of work. Look at all of that, and now we’re going to impose a new… a new financial burden on them.”

I’ve got news for Brandston, and tens of thousands of words detailing unnecessary Republican legislation like the threat of fetuses in food or aircraft carriers for landlocked states, that does nothing to put people back to work, save their homes, or put food on their tables – and he’s worried about a damn light bulb.

“I see no good reason to relegate one of America’s greatest inventions to the dustbin of history — other than to suit the particular interests of uninformed politicians, light manufacturing giants, and their lobbyists, and energy zealots.”

Mr. Brandston, who apparently can’t see farther than his nose, is going to teach those “energy zealots” a lesson, by God: he’s hoarding incandescent light bulbs and storing them in his basement – a lifetime supply. He says others are doing the same.

And oh, by the way, he says, and CFL bulbs contain mercury:

“They banned mercury in thermometers,” Brandston said. “Now they’re saying, ‘Hey, in light bulbs, it’s okay, but in thermometers, no.’ That’s because it’s been pushed by the lamp manufacturers and what I call the ‘green machine.'”

What neither Brandston nor CBN will tell you is that a CFL bulb contains, says, “a very small amount of mercury sealed within the glass tubing – an average of 4 milligrams (mg). By comparison, older thermometers contain about 500 milligrams of mercury – an amount equal to the mercury in 125 CFLs.”

OK, so it has a small amount of mercury. But you have to admit that’s a striking contrast and one that should at least have been touched upon by CBN in the interest of making fact-based, not emotional decisions. But CBN isn’t interested in reporting facts; they are as are all propagandists, interested in promoting emotion, so they won’t tell you this either:

Thanks to technology advances and a commitment from members of the National Electrical Manufacturers Association, the average mercury content in CFLs has dropped at least 20 percent or more in the past several years. Some manufacturers have even made further reductions, dropping mercury content to 1 mg per light bulb.

Doesn’t seem so bad then, does it? Solution? Don’t mention it. Mission? Accomplished.

So what’s next? Sandra Miles, who offered the pro’s above, agrees with Brandston with regards to CFL toxicity: “I think they’re dangerous; I don’t like to use them.” CBN isn’t going to mention a greater danger by far, but will. CBN says that The Environmental Protection Agency states the use of CFLs helps reduce mercury emissions in the U.S. because of “their significant energy savings. Yet, the EPA also has detailed instructions on its website of what to do if a CFL breaks in your home.”

Here’s what’s missing:

What are mercury emissions caused by humans?

EPA estimates the U.S. is responsible for the release of 103 metric tons of mercury emissions each year. More than half of these emissions come from coal-fired electrical power. Mercury released into the air is the main way that mercury gets into water and bio-accumulates in fish. (Eating fish contaminated with mercury is the main way for humans to be exposed.)

Most mercury vapor inside fluorescent light bulbs becomes bound to the inside of the light bulb as it is used. EPA estimates that the rest of the mercury within a CFL – about 11 percent2 – is released into air or water when it is sent to a landfill, assuming the light bulb is broken. Therefore, if all 272 million CFLs3 sold in 2009 were sent to a landfill (versus recycled, as a worst case- they would add 0.12 metric tons, or 0.12 percent, to U.S. mercury emissions caused by humans.

But all CBN cares about is cleaning up a broken light bulb and 1-4 gm of mercury opposed to 103 metric tons. Again, I’d call the contrast worthy of mention – but nothing. A broken light bulb is “an enormous cleanup procedure” but the environment as a whole is not worthy of mention.

“Nobody’s going to do this; you can’t vacuum it up,” whines Brandston. No, you can’t vacuum up our environment either.

CBN also carefully avoids mentioning, as NPR pointed out in 2007, that “if every American home replaced just one light bulb with an Energy Star approved compact fluorescent bulb (CFL), the United States would save enough energy to light more than 2.5 million homes for a year and prevent greenhouse gases equivalent to the emissions of nearly 800,000 cars.” NPR also listed the benefits of CFL bulbs CBN preferred to just ignore:

The Benefits

— Energy Star qualified CFLs use at least two-thirds less energy than standard incandescent bulbs and last up to 10 times longer (average lifespan of a CFL is five years).

— CFLs save $30 or more in energy costs over each bulb’s lifetime.

— CFLs generate 70 percent less heat, making them safer to operate.

You might want to say “Wow!” to all this but CBN doesn’t. They’re still focused on cleaning up one light bulb with 1-4 mg of mercury, not the combined emissions of nearly a million automobiles or the 103 metric tons of mercury pumped into our atmosphere from coal-fired electrical power plants. They want to be sure you are aware that “For example, you can pay a buck for a three-pack of traditional bulbs, while a three-pack of CFLs can cost around $10 to $15” but it’s best you don’t know that “CFLs save $30 or more in energy costs over each bulb’s lifetime,” more than offsetting the increased initial outlay.

There is no excuse for this willful ignorance: U.S. News also reported on these cost and energy savings features back in 2007:

Each cone-shaped spiral CFL costs about $3, compared with 50 cents for a standard bulb. But a CFL uses about 75 percent less energy and lasts five years instead of a few months. A household that invested $90 in changing 30 fixtures to CFLs would save $440 to $1,500 over the five-year life of the bulbs, depending on your cost of electricity. Look at your utility bill and imagine a 12 percent discount to estimate the savings.

And Popular Mechanics, also in 2007, demonstrated that “Even if the mercury contained in a CFL was directly released into the atmosphere, an incandescent would still contribute 4.65 more milligrams of mercury into the environment over its lifetime.”

But don’t think about all this: CBN doesn’t want good Christian households concerning themselves with saving money or reducing pollution: they’d rather stoke your fear of 1-4 mg of mercury in your home than 103 metric tons in the air you breathe.

And the government, as it has been in its long war against tobacco, is saying your life – remember, it’s not as if the tobacco industry and the coal industry have any vested interest in doing so. For them, the more tobacco you smoke, the more coal they can burn, the more money they make. All you have to do is breathe the results – and die. But that costs them nothing at all.

As for those expensive LEDs, all Miles can find good to say about them is they’re virtually unbreakable and that “In a bulb like this, we’re actually able to use the LEDs and make a sign of the Cross,” she said.

Wow. That’s reporting. You have to stand in awe of CBN, able to distill a complicated issue into the mess of a single broken light bulb and the creation of a lit cross. A modicum of self-awareness might have told them who the true “energy zealots” are in this equation but that would require them to acknowledge our shared fact-based universe, and that no Republican is willing to do.

Image from Wikimedia Commons

28 Replies to “Saving You From Socialist Light Bulbs by Saving You From Pesky Facts”

  1. …”he’s hoarding incandescent light bulbs and storing them in his basement – a lifetime supply. He says others are doing the same…”

    This is great, perfect! Brandston and his merry band of “good Christians”, militia maniacs and the rest of the conspiracy minded “patriots” can collect all the bulbs they want so they can light their under-ground bunkers!

    That way, we’ll know where they are by all the
    electricity they’ll steal from the “socialist communal co-op electricity grid”…but, we can also find’em by all the trash they dump behind the trailer (all those out-dated wrappers from plastic food, candy and cigarettes from the Dollar Store). They may be crafty geniuses, but they can’t hide from the Death Panel Police or the Gay Patrol and horde all the goodies!

    The “Other” now knows where to look; that bunker door is somewhere underneath there…we can flush’em out by throwing one of them LED bulbs in their hidey-hole and breaking it, thereby releasing “tons” of mercury so they have to come out…

  2. In fact, before they were phased out, those incandescents were getting worse and worse. It got so that they would burn out after a couple of weeks’ use. The curlies, on the other hand, last me for a couplethree years. That’s less waste, heat, glass trash, and aggravation.

  3. This is the typical reaction of an aging conservative populace trying to hold on to the last vestiges of their cherished past–right down to the light bulbs. Change can be scary.

  4. I guess by Brandston’s logic, the war on women means we should use the CFL’s.

    Funny the GOP crys about us beiong energy independent and then refuses to go along with this.

    Quite unAmerican

  5. I don’t remember, but it would be fun to investigate their reaction to digital thermometers. Anyone recall how they handled that one?

    I remember thinking it was a good idea but then I’m not one of those who thinks because “we’ve always done it this way” that it’s a good idea to continue

  6. Steam locos could be updated in a way that makes a lot of sense. By having them burn bricks of compressed carbon-rich matter, such as organic garbage and wood-based construction waste, we could save on precious fossil fuels, and by putting cleaning devices in the stacks, we could prevent the smoke and soot that made either living near the tracks or travelling on the trains such a smutty experience. The captured lamp-black could then be used for paints and inks.

  7. That’s all well and good. There’s nothing wrong with making CFL bulbs available. What isn’t so good, however, is that this is yet another example of paternalism by the U.S. government, whether it was enacted by a Democratic or Republican administration. Government at all levels shouldn’t inject itself into the private lives of citizens any more than is absolutely necessary, and the argument that the mandatory use of these bulbs will save energy costs is specious. Maybe it will, and I would have no problem with the federal government mandating that CFLs should be exclusively used in government buildings, but they were way off the reservation by mandating their exclusive use by private citizens.

    I’ll add here, just to be sure the fires of disdain are well and truly stoked, that this is the kind of hare-brained paternalism one usually expects from Democratic politicians, not from Republicans, but it makes no real difference. What does matter is that government should not intrude into the choices of private citizens any more than is absolutely necessary. True, this entire issue is risible, a mere “tempest in a teapot,” but the fact of government intrusiveness becoming more and more prevalent, more and more socially acceptable almost by the day, isn’t funny. It’s wrong, it’s unacceptable, it’s un-American, and it’s about damned time a stop was put to it whatever the galvanizing issue may be.

  8. Bullshit. The energy is subsidized by the taxpayers. So, we, the taxpayers have a right to dictate a more efficient source of energy for “private citizens”.

    What you libertarians don’t get is that there is no such thing as 100% individualism. It’s just not possible because we all share the planet and whatever damage we do to it affects all of us. So no, you can’t just do whatever the hell you want. We won’t allow it. We will make you follow what’s good for all the beings on this planet or break you. Get used to it.

  9. i’n not aging not conservative I just don’t believe most of the drivel that comes out of people’s mouths go read the wiki page yourselves, note the section that says disadvantages. this article is considerably less than truthful and to me that reeks of an agenda
    at least with the old bulbs they can go out in the trash or be recycled to its base materials or used for other things in the state it’s already in

  10. If the US was paying an honest rate for power, instead of heavily subsidizing it through war, pollution and plunder, people would flock to higher efficiency bulbs in a heartbeat.

    No problem though. Candles will likely be the hottest new lighting commodity in the US, the day after gas prices (inevitably) rise to the five or six dollar-gallon level they already are in most of the developed world.


  11. There are supposedly 45% of Americans that believe the Earth is ten thousand years old and Jeebus is coming any day now to slurp them off to 711Heaven. They aren’t worried about ruining the environment. They are worried their car will veer off the road and damage the infidels still around. They want to make sure the infidels are not killed during the Slurpture so they can be properly tortured and killed by plagues and demons. You will know these people by the signs on their bumpers and windows. Enjoy.

  12. hillarious to say the least, you leftys crack me up.
    When exactly were incandesant light bulbs phazed out.
    I still buy them. I tried those spaghetti lights.
    all four burn out in less than 4 months, one broke when
    screwing it in. Your dream world utopia fairy tale ain’t gonna happen, get real. Glad you have a place where you can all gather and freak so we can keep an eye on ya though, don’t want people thinkin you nuts are the norm.

  13. LOL, BUSH was the one who signed the bill to phase the lights out. Its not as liberal dream world! God, where do these total lack of knowledge people come from?

  14. Just to muddy the waters of the argument a bit more … Edison never invented the incandescent bulb. It was invented when he was 10; he bought out a Canadian patent to try and develop a commercial version, and only by probably the only questionable act of his life managed to challenge Joseph Swan’s predating patent in England. He lost, and took Swan as his partner, and later bought him out.

    Further, CFL technology is old school already, and probably will not last another generation as the new versions of LED’s use even less energy, last longer, and are quickly becoming competitive with the CFLs.

  15. I use the little “CFL” lights, and don’t like them because they cost so much money but don’t last. The most I’ve gotten out of one is about a year. They aren’t nearly as cost efficient as the old ones, although I had to replace one of them every few months (if you use a dimmer and rewire it so it comes on dim and builds up to full bright, then they’ll last over six to nine months), while a dimmer doesn’t work with CFL and their life is about double that of an ordinary bulb… but at ten times the cost.

    I’m waiting on the solid state LED lights. Now those things are efficient, and if they don’t build in planned obsolescence, should last decades. Those things are incredible.

  16. I have one incandescent light because it has to be dimmable. Most of my CFLs last about 3-5 years; I know because we write the date on them when we first start using them. When we finish with the current supply, we intend to start using LEDs. LEDs are dimmable, I’ve checked.

  17. “But a CFL uses about 75 percent less energy and lasts five years instead of a few months”

    Let’s make all cars and t-shirts fluorescent yellow too.

    Accidental traffic accident fatalities will reduce by 75% within five years instead of 8,452 deaths every few months.

    good idea? too socialist?

  18. I appose being forced to use CFL or LED bulbs but for different reasons, as I am one of the few that get physically effected by these bulbs. They give me headaches and make my vision fuzzy, unless they are effectively diffused by a good diffuser they like most florescent bulbs will cause issues for me.

  19. See Dunday com for an alternative take, also on that specific CBN article (as searchable, can’t link here):
    Energy saving is not the only reason for choosing a light bulb you want to use.
    Incandescent technology has many advantages of its own, and will effectively be banned for ordinary use – including 2012 touted halogen type
    replacements – on the 45 lumen per watt end regulation that applies in phase 2 of EISA starting after 2014.

    No-one wants to waste energy.
    However, light bulbs don’t burn coal or release CO2 gas.
    Power plants might, and might not.
    If there’s a problem – Deal with the problem.

    Society energy usage savings are only around 1% of grid energy use on DoE etc stats (see Ceolas net)
    with much more relevant generation, grid distribution and alternative consumption savings.
    – and that is still not counting the manufacture, transport and recycle energy use of the more complex alternatives, again as referenced.

  20. (Continued)

    Certainly, consumers can make some usage savings from switching their most commonly used bulbs.
    However, society laws are presumably made for society savings, as above:
    rather than clamping down on what light bulb Johnny wants to use in his bedroom.
    Besides, the personal choice of paid-for product use is hardly
    “wasting energy”, compared to unnecessarily leaving products on.

    Even if light bulbs had to be targeted,
    market competition or taxation policies are more relevant, (the latter can pay for price lowering subsidies on alternatives), not just to keep choice, but to promote innovation and to save more
    energy overall… Dunday com
    “The deception behind arguments used to ban light bulbs”

  21. As this article states, CFLs are a better solution, both economically and environmentally, than incandescent bulbs, which ultimately result in greater mercury exposure than CFLs, because they consume more power and require more power generation. Since mercury is a byproduct of burning coal, coal-fired power plants are a larger source of mercury pollution than the mercury content in the CFLs. Although CFLs do contain a small amount of mercury, with a proven packaging configuration and proper disposal, CFLs can be used effectively without releasing harmful mercury vapor.
    While a variety of containers are marketed for transportation of fluorescent lamps and CFLs, many don’t provide sufficient protection against mercury vapor emitted from broken lamps. Using a proven packaging design is vital to ensuring the safety of people who handle these lamps, as well as maintaining their green benefits. Read about a recent study that tested several packaging configurations here: If a bulb breaks, consumers can learn more about clean-up procedures here:

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