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 energystar.gov, “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 energystar.gov 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:
— 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
Hrafnkell Haraldsson, a social liberal with leanings toward centrist politics has degrees in history and philosophy. His interests include, besides history and philosophy, human rights issues, freedom of choice, religion, and the precarious dichotomy of freedom of speech and intolerance. He brings a slightly different perspective to his writing, being that he is neither a follower of an Abrahamic faith nor an atheist but a polytheist, a modern-day Heathen who follows the customs and traditions of his Norse ancestors. He maintains his own blog, A Heathen’s Day, which deals with Heathen and Pagan matters, and Mos Maiorum Foundation www.mosmaiorum.org, dedicated to ethnic religion. He has also contributed to NewsJunkiePost, GodsOwnParty and Pagan+Politics.