The documentary portrays the power and machinations of the light bulb industry, as well as the resistance against the "Directive for the regulation of lighting products in private households." It's about the profit greed of the industry and their lobbies, the entanglement of politics, the environmental hypocrisy, and about deliberate misinformation.
It is also about the fundamental question of whether the quality of the visual environment, and thus our quality of life, is subordinate to other concerns. The quality of surrounding light represents a value not to be underestimated, a value that one should not rashly sacrifice at the altar of a feel-good environmental conscience.
Having covered one online video light bulb documentary as originally in German, "The Lightbulb Conspiracy" by Cosima Dannoritzer (note: updated July 23), and indeed the recent Spring 2012 45 min 3Sat TV documentary Ausgebrannt - Vom Ende der Glühbirne (Burned Out - The End of the Incandescent), another one, which covers more issues, is "Bulb Fiction", made in Austria by director Christoph Mayr and by cameraman Moritz Gieselmann, who had the original idea.
Official film website Bulbfiction-derfilm.com, Google translation.
Fuller description of the film, in German, Google translation.
Alternative AustrianFilm site
Full press material in German .pdf format with pictures (alt link).
Similar, in sparser .doc format (alt link), Google translation.
Videotrailers "Trailer & Videomaterial" 14 videotrailers, listed by subject, .mov format
Audio clips "Soundbites", by the film director etc, .mp3 format
Photos "Bildmaterial", 53 photos from the film.
I originally heard of the Bulb Fiction film via Peter Stenzel in Vienna, Gluehbirne.ist.org website, which has good information and updates, including other trailers related to the film listed according to subject matter treated: in German, or with Google text translation.
This first video nicely introduces and summarizes the film.
Thanks to Howard Brandston for the tip about it, while Kevan Shaw of Savethebulb.org makes a distinguished appearance in the film itself, and indeed already in the trailer where he sees how bulbs are dealt with (not) at a supposed collection site!
The full 1 1/2 hour video below.
While of limited interest to English only speakers, it does contain some English language interviews and much graphical and other obvious information.
Skim through it and see. If you find it of more engaging interest, there is a DVD version via Amazon here. I am not aware of any English dubbed or subtitled version... then you really should buy it!
[If the embed version does not work, the full version usually via Youtube search page for long versions of the film. Not unreasonably, the video keeps being removed for coyright reasons, before someone puts it up again... it can also be got via general search from less copyright conscious sites. As said, on the basis of being in German without subtitles I take it most readers here would be unlikely to see or buy it anyway...].
Listing of the participants (bulbfiction-derfilm.com/protagonisten):
[or see Google translated English page version]
My translation of the film synopsis adding some own comments within the [ ] parenthesis:
2007 sees Greenpeace destroy 10 000 light bulbs in front of the Brandenburg Gate in Berlin with a road roller.
The same destruction would not have been possible with "energy saving" bulbs: The mercury contained in 10,000 CFLs is enough to contaminate 50 million liters of drinking water - apart from the acute health hazard for activists and bystanders.
Why Greenpeace together with the lamp industry in Brussels exerted considerable pressure to ban the bulb, is one of the questions pursued in BULB FICTION, the investigative documentary by Christoph Mayr.
[In the film, and in part 2 of this trailer (.mov), Dr Klaus Stanjek, researcher and filmmaker (Cinetarium.de, bilingual site) tells how he was commissioned by Greenpeace Hamburg to investigate the Fluorescent bulbs, but he found them to be energy wasting rather than saving. The study in German, functional English version (link credits, Peter Stenzel, Kevan Shaw). Not exactly what was "required"!]
From September 2009, incandescent lamps of 100W bulbs or more, are banned - like all frosted incandescent bulbs regardless of wattage.
From September 2011 the 60W lamp types disappear, and from September 2012 other regular incandescent types.
Mains-voltage halogen lamps have a grace period and are then banned from autumn 2016.
[EU regulations in more detail, Ceolas.net/#li01inx]
How did we get here?
The industry needs sales, NGOs must prove to their donors that they can put their concerns into visible action, while the majority of politicians just look at which way the wind is blowing, for them there is rarely such a good opportunity to be feted as climate change protectors, as otherwise they would be interfering with powerful industries or such lobby interests.
Almost all who deal with the subject of intense light and its effect on people, health professionals, lighting designers, biologists are against the ban on incandescent lamps. But since they don't belong to any of the big lobbies, their protests go unheeded.
In BULB FICTION they have their say.
Already in 2007, the cameraman and lighting designer Moritz Gieselmann heard by chance that incandescent bulbs would be banned from an employee of the lamp manufacturer Osram, but he thought it to be just a bizarre rumor - who could come up with the idea to ban such a well-established and popular product, the simplicity and elegance of the bulb is unsurpassed to this day: A metal mounting of a glowing tungsten wire in a glass bulb filled with inert gas or vacuum - that's it.
[Moritz Gieselmann: Adieu, gute alte Glühbirne, Adieu, good old light bulb]
Then in 2008, with the impending ban on incandescent bulbs becoming news in all media, Gieselmann begins researching, and what he finds gives rise to a growing skepticism about the compact fluorescent lamp. The information in the media is incomplete, and so comes about the idea of making a feature documentary on the subject. The writer and director Christopher Mayr, at first skeptical about whether the topic isn't too dry, is soon enthusiastic, and with Thomas Bogner, there is a dedicated producer, so in the fall of 2011, as the disappearance of the 60W incandescent lamp becomes a reality, Bulb Fiction hits the cinemas.
[Christoph Mayr about the making of the film: in German, Google translation]
By Regulation (EC) 244/2009 of the EU, the ban on incandescent bulbs and therefore the practical necessity of buying fluorescent lamps became official. Christoph Mayr wanted to talk at the time with the relevant EU energy commissioner, Andris Piebalgs. He refuses, pointing out he is no longer in charge of the department of energy. Günter Oettinger, his successor, also refuses, on the basis that he only came into office after the ban [so it had nothing to do with him].
The relevant top official of the EU, Andras Toth, was stopped by his Commission superiors from stepping in front of the camera.
Only Marlene Holzner, spokeswoman for the EU Energy Commission, was allowed to answer the questions by Christoph Mayr. Because she is not very informed about the topic, she brings Andras Toth as an advisory prompter to help answer the questions - but he must not be filmed!
[So much for EU "openness, transparency and willingness to engage in dialogue"... the film also mentions how Osram, Philips, the EU commissioned VITO research organization, and the ELC light manufacturer cooperative (lobby) organization refused interviews]
That CFLs contain mercury, the EU knows full well. The fact that mercury is toxic, they know too, not for nothing were mercury thermometers banned, and indeed in the fall of 2008 in Austria and Germany, mercury thermometers were exchanged with alternatives for free.
The mercury in bulbs can be extremely toxic, is shown in BULB FICTION by the case of the four-year-old Max from Linden, an idyllic village in Upper Bavaria. After Max one night inhaled the gaseous mercury from the operation of a broken bulb, he gradually loses all his hair, even eyelashes and eyebrows, followed by tremor episodes and depression. Dr. Mutter from Constance, a specialist in mercury exposure, diagnosed mercury contamination, responsible in combination with other stress for these symptoms.
[UBA official German testing, on high mercury values from broken lamps, and other problems "DasErste, Plusminus: Glühlampen Verbot - Der Widerstand wächst", 2011 TV-report video in German]
Gary Zörner from Lafu Institute, who has long dealt with environmental toxins, sums it up: "Every tiny bit of mercury makes for a little bit more mental loss" - because it accumulates in the brain and nerve cells are destroyed, even if no limit is exceeded."
The limit of mercury in CFLs is a chapter in itself: it indeed exists, 5mg per lamp, but it isn't monitored. Christoph Seidel, spokesman of Megaman, which claims to be Europe's largest manufacturer of bulbs, says that one must trust the manufacturers, a control based on mutual trust...
VITO, the Belgian institute that has evaluated the lamps on behalf of the EU, reviewed the mercury content of a sample of just 5 (five) items. Here too no one wants to talk with Christoph Mayr.
[The VITO report: one of the five bulbs is seen to be over the limit at 6.4 mg, while some are only 1-2mg]
Dr. Georg Steinhauser, radiation physicist at the Technical University of Vienna, such a sample size is laughable and simply not serious. He determined to BULB FICTION the mercury content of a compact fluorescent lamp and criticized the official measurement method of the EU, which measures only the mercury adhering to the glass, but not the gaseous form, which escapes when the lamp is stripped down [for testing]: "It's as if to determine the amount of helium in a balloon I were to judge it on the basis of what adheres to the skin of the balloon."
VITO, which otherwise produced very optimistic results for the proponents of the ban on incandescent bulbs, estimates that 80% of the mercury from spent bulbs ends up in the environment.
[The film show that the EU Commission knew this from the VITO material presented to them, before a decision was made.
VITO "optimism" was surpassed by the Commission's own researcher Paolo Bertoldi in his final report, emphasising the "great savings" from directly pushing CFL replacements, more: Ceolas.net/#euban]
Once Europe is covered with compact fluorescent lamps, at least a million of these little poison containers must be disposed of every day. Multiplied by 5mg for each lamp, that means 146 tons of mercury spread everywhere in Europe.
But even the fifth of the burned-out bulbs which arrive intact at recycling plants, can do damage: Christoph Mayr does some film recording at the "Electrical Waste Recycling Group" in Huddersfield, England. The company was in June 2010 sentenced to a fine of 145,000 pounds, because of the mercury contamination of 20 employees, including a pregnant woman, from a long period of ventilation exposure of mercury. A former employee of the company says in the film that he one year afterwards still suffers from poor concentration, memory problems and depression.
[On Mercury clean-up and disposal procedures, Gad Giladi, former president of the Professional Lighting Designers Association is interviewed. He has a good paper covering this and other issues "Phasing-out” the Incandescents – Is the Public Misinformed or Disinformed?"]
Christoph Mayr does not let up.
Bulb FICTION leaves no question about saving light bulb and lamp unanswered.
In Berlin, he speaks with Helmut Höge of TAZ, who for a long time has extensively investigated Phoebus, the light bulbs cartel, founded in the 1920s. Phoebus was the first global cartel. It not only ensured the participating companies, including Osram, Philips and General Electric, profit margins and market share, it also ensured that the service life of incandescent lamps, 1500 hours during Thomas Edisons time at the end of the 19th Century, [2500 hours by 1924, 5000 hours in later examples] was comprehensively reduced to 1000 hours by 1935 [and has remained a 1000 hour standard] For member companies whose bulbs lasted too long there was an elaborate system of fines.
[Also in the film, interviews about the Phoebus (Phöbus) cartel with researcher Markus Krajewski - more about the Phoebus cartel and the continued manufacturer cooperation leading up to the incandescent ban in the USA as well as the EU, see http://ceolas.net/#phoebuspol]
In the early 1990s, Dieter Binninger, inventor and industrialist from Berlin, developed a light bulb that held the same performance as the conventional 1000-hour lamp, yet lasted for 150,000 hours. Just days after he has submitted a bid via a Trust for a former East German lamp factory, he died 1991 in a plane crash. The cartel researcher Rudolf Mirow wrote in 1992 to Birgit Breuel, the head of the Trust: "There is reason to believe that the same cartel members have now carved up the market of the new German federal states between them ..." In 1993, Mirow died in a car accident in Indonesia.
[The Binninger bulb sounds too good to be true, and this seems so.
The patent referred to in the film is DE 3001755C2. Can be looked up on Depatisnet, http://depatisnet.dpma.de, German Patent Bureau, Text of patent Verfahren zur Verlängerung der Lebensdauer von Allgebrauchsglühlampen
A comment on the patent, as from Rudiger Appel, 3Quarks.com Hamburg, here, and other sources:
Basically, the criticism is that the life increase is by lowering the voltage, but power consumption (and presumably the current) rises to maintain the same brightness, so the cost increases too. To replace a standard 100W incandescent light bulb with a Binninger bulb of the same luminosity, supposedly needs 150 W of electrical power. an increased consumption of 50 kWh, at a price of 0.20 € / kWh that is 10 € for the 1000 hrs of a normal bulb....
Interestingly, the opposite of raising operating voltage and lowering current for given wattage also increases lifespan while reducing the light output, eg some "rough service" type bulbs.
Also, US 110 volt mains operated 100W standard bulbs are brighter than European 220 volt mains ones, being closer to 150W European, but have 750 hr standard life compared to 1000 European (pre-ban), though of course other production factors like filament thickness etc may enter into it.
However, as the film says, long-lasting incandescent bulbs of all kinds have been kept from ordinary consumers, and recent incandescent energy saving inventions have not been pursued by major manufacturers either, given the more profitable switchover lighting alternatives]
BULB FICTION also discusses the biological and medical aspects of light, there are significant differences in the quality of light from regular incandescent light bulbs and that of fluorescent lamps.
Incandescent light bulbs are known as thermal radiators: A tungsten filament is heated until it emits light, analogous to the sun and fire. And as with the natural sources the light and heat are inextricably linked, so it is with the bulb. But when the lighting industry in the 1930s was looking for a technical-physical definition of light, it reduced the term "light" to the visually perceptible fraction of the sun's radiation. That infrared light, the invisible part of this radiation, has an effect on our organism is not disputed. What side effects the absence of infrared light can have, is still largely unexplored. Professor Richard Funk [website] is on the board of the Anatomical Institute of the University of Dresden. In 2009 he published a study in which he puts forward the hypothesis that blue components in light from new lighting sources, which are unaccompanied by infrared, can contribute to the emergence of macular degeneration in the eye. In experiments, he demonstrates that blue light can damage retinal cells, however, infrared stimulates cells to repair themselves.
[Funk, Wunsch, Lachenmayr Makuladegeneration & Energiesparlampen, Macular Degeneration & Energy Saving Bulbs The fact that fluorescents, as in the film, demonstrably lacks infrared radiation is typically commented "hey, look, no heat waste from them!" - as for example in this German ARD TV program "Kopfball" video (second half) - forgetting that the CFL heat output (80% v 95% incandescent) is internalized in the ballast, giving the greater unpredictable fire risk from the bulbs http://ceolas.net/#li18eax.
Moritz Gieselmann adds on his website "There is also a psychological factor: Since in the spectrum of light bulbs, the red components are underrepresented, the person perceives his environment as cool - and turns the heating up."
As Halogenica comments on the subject, this may also be a factor why resistance to the ban is greater in Northern Europe, the incandescent reddish warm light spectrum not desired in warmer climates, where people anyway spend less time indoors in smaller living areas and have less dark winters etc, http://ceolas.net/#li11x - frosted incandescent light bulbs, the first to be banned, are also much more popular in Northern than in Southern Europe, as I was informed by Osram and Philips sales departments]
The light of fluorescent lamps is missing not only in the infrared region, they have 3 or 5-energy peaks in the visible spectrum range, with darkness in between, as the physician, Dr. Alexander Wunsch, who has extensively looked at the health aspects of light, demonstrates.
The result is also poor color rendition - because objects can only reflect the light with which they are illuminated in the first place. From the lack of certain colors in the light, surfaces in these colors appear pale and washed out.
[More: Alexander Wunsch, Ja zur Glühlampe Google translation, from his Lichtbiologie (Light Biology) website]
Wolfgang Maes, building biologist from Neuss, tests the CFL on behalf of Ökotest, with startling results: The value of the electromagnetic pollution is up to 15 times higher than allowed by the TCO standard for screen displays.
[Wolfgang Maes also demonstrates that CFL flimmering and flickering has not disappeared with the electronic ballasts as supposed, it is just not visible to the naked eye.
His paper Die dunklen Seiten der Energiesparlampen, summarized as a newspaper article, good run-through of CFL issues, the pdf document texts can be copy-pasted into Google etc translation services.
CFL brightness: Mr Maes measurements, like others, show the common CFL to incandescent 1:5 wattage assumption (eg 15W CFL supposed to be as bright as a 75W bulb) is more like 1:3 or generously 1:4
The film also points out that CFLs lose brightness with use, and interestingly, how old people's yellowing eye lenses absorbing blue light means the CFL's appear still dimmer to them]
In Brussels, Christoph Mayr speaks with Holger Krahmer [Holger-Krahmer.de, translated], a German MEP from Leipzig, who spoke out as the first European politician against the ban on the incandescent light bulbs. For him it is incomprehensible as being part of democratic politics, that it is politically decided which products may be used by citizens and which may not. The ban reminds him of the dictatorial planned economy of the GDR that he experienced [Leipzig is in the former East Germany]. Also a lot seen on a specific trailer (.mov) of his contribution.
Max Otte, financial journalist and professor of economics: "This Europe is a Europe of big business, that long since took over the reins of power!"
In the meantime, Sigmar Gabriel, German Environment Minister, allegedly one of the driving forces behind the ban on incandescent bulbs, handed out thousands of compact fluorescent lamps from Osram in the last federal election campaign.
Unswervingly Christoph Mayr pursues the investigative leads, meticulously all the details on the subject are edited together.
How to find the nearest collection point for electronic waste?
Not always as easy as one might imagine. Is really everything done to avoid the toxic mercury escaping into the environment?
(Kevan Shaw goes with a neatly packed fluorescent bulb to a disposal site... no prize for guessing what happens]
Do the high values given to the life expectancy of CFLs really hold up?
[No, as Kevan Shaw also points out... the reasons include that on-off switching in real life exceeds the 3 hour lab test cycles, and that brightness decreases with use, shortening effective lifespan]
Is the so-called quicksilver paradox true, that mercury-free incandescent bulbs are actually responsible for more mercury release into the environment via coal power plants than the mercury-containing compact fluorescent lamps are responsible for?
[No, and never was, for many reasons, Ceolas.net/#li198x, Kevan for example pointing out how some coal mercury remains fixed in the burned ash and chimney (flue) wall]
What is the Heat Replacement Effect?
[The replacement by incandescent heat of room heat generated from other sources, the film mentions UK research (more on the topic http://ceolas.net/#li6x) and also how the effect increases with modern buildings... ironically all todays "energy saving insulation" as in ceilings and attics, increases such energy saving heat benefit, while use with air conditioning cooling of course is optional and might be preferred anyway for light quality etc reasons]
And what effect will the mercury lamps have for people in developing countries?
[The film illustrates with the situation in India, Christoph interviews Ravi Agarwal, founder of Toxics Link, amongst others who themselves report that Indian CFL industry puts consumers at great risk, average content per CFL found to be 21.2 mg, much higher than international standards... the film also shows how CFLs are openly dumped]
At the end of BULB FICTION the makers of Heatball [Heatball.de, smaller English version] present their campaign, turning the argument on its head that light bulbs give off 95% of the energy as heat radiation, in order to sell bulbs as small heaters that just happen to give off some light:
"Heat Ball is also a resistance against the disproportionality of measures to protect our environment. How can you seriously believe that we help save the planet's climate by using energy saving light bulbs, while allowing rain forests to wait in vain for decades for any real protection?"
The European-German bureaucracy are out of their depth in adequately trying to deal with these engaged citizens and their performance art, resorting to public order mandates, financial penalties, and seizure of the Heat balls.
is a film for engaged citizens who are not satisfied just to be angry about what is happening, but want to be better informed, helping them reach a more educated opinion of what this is all about.
Film Director Christoph Mayr sums up the experience...
end of his statement, my translation.
Having intensively pursued the subject, I am convinced that [EU] industry representatives, in our case the light bulb manufacturers, carefully plan what they do and are aware of the dangers of compact fluorescent lamps. I am equally convinced that the manufacturers try on the one hand to hide these dangers, and on the other hand to downplay them, should they become public.
The findings from my research are applicable in other areas. The topic "Energy saving light bulbs" is a great way to show the methods and the cold-bloodedness of major industries.
Is Bulb Fiction therefore a film about lamps? No, Bulb Fiction is a film about power and the abuse of power, about people who oppose large, powerful institutions, big corporations, and big government. Bulb Fiction is a film about moral courage and mature conduct. The film wants to be a dissenting voice to the already well underway mighty million costing advertising campaigns of the lamp industry, a voice of enlightenment, if you will.
Bulb Fiction tries nothing less than to bring light to the truth.
Christoph Mayr, September 2011
The Heat Ball campaign mentioned has been covered in several posts here,
the main ones being the last one here, and this here, "We want to shed more heat than light!", from which also the following...
"All the lads" behind the two ventures
Rudolf Hannot (Heatball), Christoph Mayr (Bulb Fiction), Siegfried Rotthäuser (Heatball),
and Moritz Gieselmann (Bulb Fiction)
How Regulations are Wrongly Justified
14 points, referenced:
Includes why the overall society savings aren't there, and even if they were, why alternative policies are better, including alternative policies that target light bulbs.