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

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

"Most Americans against the Light Bulb Ban"

January 8 update, new ending. [Original post also January 8]

Rasmussen Survey, conducted January 2-3 and as reported January 7 2014

Only one-in-four Americans support the ban on conventional 40- and 60-watt light bulbs in the United States that went into effect January 1, and the same number say they or someone they know stocked up on the old bulbs beforehand.

A new Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey finds that 60% of American Adults still oppose the ban on traditional light bulbs ordered by the federal government in the name of improved energy efficiency. That's down only slightly from 67% in July 2011 when the government first announced the new regulations. Twenty-five percent (25%) now support the light bulb ban, up from 20% two-and-a-half years ago. Fifteen percent (15%) remain undecided.

The national survey of 1,000 Adults was conducted on January 2-3, 2014 by Rasmussen Reports. The margin of sampling error is +/- 3 percentage points with a 95% level of confidence. Field work for all Rasmussen Reports surveys is conducted by Pulse Opinion Research, LLC.

The questions asked...
National Survey of 1,000 Adults Conducted January 2-3, 2014 By Rasmussen Reports

1* How closely have you followed recent news stories about changes in the manufacturing of light bulbs?

2* While effectively banning the sale of traditional light bulbs, a new law will allow only more expensive light bulbs that are expected to last longer and be more energy efficient. Should the sale of traditional light bulbs be banned?

3* The Energy Department says that the new light bulbs will cost more up front but save money in the long run. How likely is it that the new light bulbs will save money in the long run?

4* Is it the government’s job to tell Americans what kind of light bulb to use?

5* Suppose the new light bulbs don’t work so well and end up costing more money in the long run. How likely is it that the government will then allow the sale of traditional light bulbs?

6* Will the new fluorescent or halogen bulbs be good for the environment, bad for the environment or will it they have no impact on the environment?

7* Have you or anyone you know bought large quantities of traditional bulbs to use once they are no longer available in stores?

8* Are you buying the new energy efficient bulbs because you want to or because traditional light bulbs are no longer available?

9* Who would do a better job of providing quality products for consumers-- government planners and managers or companies hoping to make a profit?

NOTE: Margin of Sampling Error, +/- 3 percentage points with a 95% level of confidence

Today, January 8 2014 sees a new press release

January 8, 2014:
Just 18% of American Adults believe it is the government’s job to tell people in this country what kind of light bulb to use. Seventy-two percent (72%) disagree and feel it is not the government’s job to make that call. Ten percent (10%) are not sure.

Which happens to be identical to 2009

Rasmussen July 2009:
Just 18% of American Adults believe it is the government’s job to tell people in this country what kind of light bulb to use. Seventy-two percent (72%) disagree and feel it is not the government’s job to make that call. Ten percent (10%) are not sure.

This is presumably an unintentional mistake? ;-)
The comparative January 7, 2014 press release, as per above, edited to fit in

Twenty-five percent (25%) support the light bulb ban....60% of American Adults still oppose...Fifteen percent (15%) remain undecided.

For the sake of completion, the July 2011 survey
Just 20% of adults think the sale of traditional light bulbs should be banned. Sixty-seven percent (67%) oppose such a ban. Thirteen percent (13%) are undecided.
[Thank you to MB Snow, since retired, for the 2011 information, The Snow Report, which has more about that survey]


Lies, damn lies, and statistics...
There are other surveys in the past, as by USA Today (more below), purporting to show "How people welcome regulations and the great new light bulbs".

There are 2 main points here.

Firstly, how the questions are asked
(eg "are you happy about the great new bulbs" versus "should government tell you what light bulb to buy" kind of juxtapositions, with nuances in between).

Secondly, and more importantly, that bans are wrong either way.
New bulbs are desirable - No point banning old bulbs
New bulbs are not desirable - No point banning old bulbs

If new bulbs are "so great and welcome", presumably they would be bought voluntarily, and there is little savings in not allowing the presumably low sales of alternatives for those who still want them.
Conversely it's hardly great either, of course, to ban a more desirable choice.
[More cynically, one might also ask, if people really think the "alternatives are so great", why haven't they already bought them then? Standard light bulbs remain the most popular choice.]

as the more detailed surveys also show, people certainly have bought new kinds of bulbs.
They just don't want all their light bulbs to be non-incandescent (and as per other posts, halogen replacement incandescents are also legislated to be banned in North America, Europe and Australia on tier 2 regulations).
Switch all your bulbs and save money, is like saying
Eat only bananas, and save money.

See the issues around these kind of surveys, as already summarized in the "How Regulations are Wrongly Justified" 14 points rundown.

To illustrate some of this:

The USA Today paper has in the past put out survey results showing how "Americans welcome the regulations" and indeed new light bulbs themselves.

Nearly three of four U.S. adults, or 71%, say they have replaced standard light bulbs in their home over the past few years with compact fluorescent lamps or LEDs (light emitting diodes) and 84% say they are "very satisfied" or "satisfied" with the alternatives

.... which incidentally applies to switching one or more bulbs, not a total switchover - again statistical manipulation!
As it happens, the same article author had 10 days earlier pointed out
Types of lightbulbs consumers have in their homes:
Incandescents 82%
Compact fluorescent 72%
Halogen 39%
Light emitting diodes 27%
Source: Sylvania Socket Survey

As for the more recent 2013 Sylvania socket survey, it finds that
65 percent of Americans plan to switch to more energy-efficient lighting technologies, as a result of federally mandated legislation that is increasing efficiency standards     [well, they hardly have a choice!]
More than half (59%) of consumers are excited about the phase out, as it will help Americans use more energy efficient light bulbs.     [why - who was stopping them using them?]

Conversely, it also says
30 percent of consumers say that they plan to buy a lot of traditional light bulbs where still available and will continue using them. This is a sharp increase from the 2012 Socket Survey which showed just 16 percent said that they plan to stockpile bulbs.

Given what was said about different lighting having different advantages, this is hardly surprising, the contradiction is only apparent.
Yet, most US media seem unable to make balanced appropriate remarks:
"Liberal/Eco" side focusing on the "welcome" bit, "Republican/Conservative" side on the "stockpiling" bit, others seemingly "perplexed" at the findings, which are therefore not really contradictory at all.

It's a bit tiring to be an assumed retrograde lover of obsolescent technology.
It seems incredibly hard for some to understand that being against a ban does not necessitate being against other forms of lighting.
Of course, fluorescent bulbs or LEDs have disadvantages too, but disadvantages are also naturally highlighted in objections, if one is forced to use such lighting where incandescents would have been better (and yes it is a "ban" on incandescents including halogens, for reasons covered at length elsewhere, including tier 2 US/EU etc law references).
All lighting has different advantages for different uses.
Politicians that have something in their heads that can be likened to a brain might understand this. Then again, they might not.

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.


Steve said...

I appreciate your reflections on the principle of the concepts here. One of the challenges for lawmakers is that they have opposing desires of the people. For instance, cheap energy and the ability to use whatever light bulb they want ... coupled with a desire to get off of foreign oil and (for some Americans) to stop producing so much pollution with energy ourselves. Changing our lighting is one easy way to address the energy issue, but people don't want to be told how to address it. So to me, it's just not an easy topic.

However, I do tell people they can keep their incandescent bulbs by just buying rough service bulbs. They don't cost a lot more, and they last twice as long. They just don't burn quite as bright as the wattage would suggest, because they're 130V bulbs running on 120V, so if you need to maintain the same lighting, upgrade to the next wattage number. Its brightness AND usage of wattage will actually be 10-20% less.

Peter T said...

Thanks Steve,
RE energy and electricity, USA imports no oil (or other fuel, except possibly Uranium from Canada) for electricity.
Alaska and any other minor state use involves indigenous oil.

As covered elsewhere, the relevant society energy savings are marginal at best for several reasons, including that incandescents are mainly used off-peak evening and night at times of surplus electricity availability, such that in particular coal, the main worry, would likely be burned to the same amount anyway on minimal night cycle levels.

As you say in regard to the rough service bulbs they are legal for now.
See the recent post about them.
As seen, they'll have sales monitored in tier 2 regulation and may be banned in tier 3 (with probable store inspections, as planned in other countries, since industry like mining need these bulbs).
It's good to have the rough service workaround though and they do last longer, albeit with less brightness for the same wattage, as you say.