If energy needs to be saved, there are good ways to do it.
                                                               Government product regulation is not one of them

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Good Greek Philosophy

Having recently seen contributors from around the globe on the light bulb ban, another one, from Greece.

Antonis Christofides, is a developer and system administrator at the Department of Water Resources, School of Civil Engineering, National Technical University of Athens (NTUA).
He has also written extensively on climate change, questioning the current man-made supposition. Well worth reading.

Here the focus will be on his paper about the irrelevance of banning bulbs
to save energy for society, or indeed for any other reason.
Source, wider format, same content: http://itia.ntua.gr/antonis/environment/on-banning-the-bulb


Regarding the lack of energy savings for society, the author makes points familiar to readers of this blog:
See the Deception rundown, energy and coal sections, and the more extensive sections on the lack of society energy or power plant savings on the Ceolas.net site.

What is said about CFLs in the text is usually applicable to LEDs as well.

He makes the good point that any impressive sounding "save 80% energy using CFLs" is part of a very small energy use in the first place, such that the less impressive sounding "save 20% fuel by switching to a small car" is a lot more meaningful in real terms...

Why, then, don't we ban large cars? If people are entitled to drive a car for fun, or to go to the cinema, or to have a large TV, or to choose the temperature they want their home to have, or to fly business class, then why take away my freedom to choose the light that I want? Why force me use a lamp that produces a strange spectrum rather than the pure light of the bulb?

He also makes the good point that the (generously) 1% or so of total energy saved, as also seen from other data in the above references, would not mean "the saving of power plants" as global energy consumption is rising anyway... continuing

We want not only to encourage, but to force people throw away the light bulb, a simple device consisting of harmless materials, that could easily exist 200 years from now no matter what happens at technology and civilization, and replace it with a complicated system with toxic content, that cannot be dimmed with traditional dimmers, and that takes some time to reach its luminosity and is therefore inappropriate for some applications such as corridors and staircases, where you need the light immediately but only for a few seconds.

After noting that cheaper energy use means likely means greater use (not least if, in addition, a greater quantity of the dim bulbs have to be used as well), continuing on a philosophical note....

We use more and more light...
Unfortunately, it is not only the night sky that we are missing, but the beauty of the night itself. That we like darkness is obvious by the fact that, if the light of a street lamp gets too much into our room, we close our window blinds in order to sleep; that we like to go to dimly lit restaurants and bars; and that we love the dim light of candles and fireplaces. And yet the tendency today is to flood our cities with artificial light and eliminate darkness altogether.

He is also perceptive on the profits issue...
making points I have not seen elsewhere.

Certainly profit is one of the driving forces behind the ban.
It is hard for me to believe that the marketing campaign by Siemens is because of their determination to save the environment.

I can make some guesses about why CFLs are profitable for large lamp manufacturers.

First, they are way more expensive. They appear cheap to you because they are subsidized.

My second suspicion is that while small manufacturers have the technology to make incandescent lamps, and therefore compete with large manufacturers, they probably can't make CFLs. Therefore, these guys will likely go out of business and the large manufacturers will get their customers.

My third suspicion is patents. CFLs have about 20 years in the market. This means that the first patents are expiring. But 20 years ago they were much worse than today; they produced very bad light, and they were huge in size. Clearly there have been many developments. Probably the newest patents are no more than 5 years old, which means they will last for at least another 15 years. This means that any small manufacturers who make CFLs will have to pay patent fees to the large manufacturers, who own the patents [another reason they may go out of business].

If someone profits, someone else loses.
And the one who loses is usually you.
In our case, the small manufacturers also lose.
But the result can be a state-enabled cartel of manufacturers: the state has granted these patents, and the state has decided on the ban. Therefore the state enables the cartel. Cartels raise prices. Whether you can feel the higher price when you buy the CFLs, or whether it is included in your taxes in the form of subsidy for CFLs, you are certainly paying more.

But I don't think that profit can explain everything.
I think that the manufacturers, at first, used good marketing, like the alleged 80% savings, to convince consumers to buy the product, and then the environmentalists took it differently, and then the manufacturers saw the opportunity and jumped on.
Huge momentum was created when the manufacturers built upon the environmentalists who built upon the manufacturers, resulting in mass paranoia.

All of us, the wealthy, the poor, the environmentally sensitive, the politicians, are busy buying and banning CFLs, thinking, because of the 80% hype, that we achieve something, when in fact we achieve barely 1%, altogether in global hysteria.



Anonymous said...

Like about the hidden cost for us of the new bulbs, that is not shown in their price

Halogenica said...

Excellent! Glad to see more people are starting to see that the emperor is indeed naked - and have been all along...

You've really found some great articles lately!

Paul B said...

did you read his good climate change document, worth a read for anyone without pre-conceived notions.

Since science is supposed to be about healthy skepticism, it's odd how official argument is suddenly supposed to be Religion, not to be questioned.

Lighthouse said...

Thanks Halogenica, also Paul.

Yes the climate change document is also worth reading.
It's good to at least keep an open mind about it.

I don't go into the CO2 + climate change debate much on the blog, as regulations on light bulbs and other products don't make sense as a society energy saving measure anyway (from all the institutional references provided) - and hence, by extension, really don't affect the CO2 emission issue either.