I speak, of course, of our Congress. They’ve actually gone and outlawed the light bulb. Thomas Edison’s lightbulb.
I don’t want to alarm you. They haven’t gone and outlawed all illumination, they’re only after your conventional incandescent light bulbs. They still want us to buy energy efficient compact flourescent bulbs. You know, to save energy.
I have no clue how bills like this get passed. This is none of the federal government’s business. My first guess would be that a bunch of congressmen are sitting around when one of them says, “Hey, our term is half over and we haven’t done anything nearly as stupid as outlawing high-volume flush toilets. How can we make our mark?”
Don’t get me wrong, the bulbs themselves are a great idea. Compact flourescent bulbs cost more than regular bulbs, but they last longer (about a full year of continuous burning) and are about four times as efficient as regular bulbs. Replacing a 100-watt incandescent bulb with an equivalent 25-watt CF bulb might cost $10 more, but it will save you about $70 in electricity over the life of the bulb.
I like these bulbs so much that every non-dimmable bulb in my house is CF. Of course, that’s one problem with these bulbs: You can’t dim flourescent lights.
Another problem with CF bulbs is that flourescent illumination is ugly. It’s gotten a lot better in recent years, with manufacturers doing more to control the emission spectrum to avoid odd colors. In fact, if you’re doing something that requires careful color judgement, you’d do well to use one of the true-white flourescent lamps for illumination. But true color isn’t always the best color. People look more attractive in the warm light of incandescence, and that counts for a lot.
All that is beside the point, however. The real problem with this kind of legislation is not whether CF bulbs are good enough, but that legislators think they’re smart enough to know the right answers for everyone. You see this attitude with a lot of SUV haters, the self-righteous belief that there couldn’t possibly be a legitimate reason for someone to have desires different from your own.
Speaking of SUVs, the incandescent ban is only the craziest part of this stupid bill, which purports to set all kinds of energy policies. For one thing, the bill raises the Corporate Average Fuel Economy targets from 25mpg to 35mpg by 2020.
I remember when I was a child, I thought it was crazy to set corporate fuel efficiency goals. How can the car company control which of its vehicles the public wants to buy? What if the public doesn’t want any 35mpg cars?
Now that I’m older and more sophisticated, I realize it’s even worse than that. With corporate targets the same for everyone, the car companies can’t specialize. Instead of some companies building large multi-purpose vehicles and some building economy cars, every company needs to have several brands. The result is some pretty bad carmaking and pressure for mergers to meet the goals.
The article says that “By 2020, the measure could reduce U.S. oil use by 1.1 million barrels a day[.]” Well, it’s certainly true that it could do that, but it might not. If you make cars 40% more fuel efficient, maybe people burn 40% less gasoline. Or maybe they increase the amount of driving they do each year by 40% since they can afford longer trips. My guess is they’ll do a little of each.
The bill also includes a payment of tribute to King Corn, in the form of somehow vastly increasing our use of ethanol. It’s not clear to me if they’re going to force farmers to grow it, oil companies to add it to their fuel blends, or consumers to use it, but since the government is insisting on more ethanol regardless of what the free market wants, it’s clear they’re going to force someone to do something.
They always do.