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

Thursday, December 1, 2011

"Ban" or "Energy Efficency Measure"?
Still wrong either way...

Increasingly, a lot of light bulb regulation supportive media are emphasising that "it is not a ban", just a great measure to make light bulbs more energy efficient.

A recent example is the Media Matters website.

Mediamatters.org, November 28 post:
Right-Wing Media Continue To Mislead On Nonexistent Light Bulb "Ban"
With some provisions of the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007 scheduled to go into effect on January 1, right-wing media have revived the false claim that the government is "banning" incandescent light bulbs. In fact, the law simply restricts the sale of inefficient bulbs and has led companies to develop numerous alternatives, including energy-efficient incandescents.
... going on with Republican media excerpts and rebuttals

See the more extensive earlier post on why it is a ban, and why it is wrong as such.

A "Ban"?

While some may welcome it, it is obviously a ban, in the sense that not allowing products that don't meet a certain standard is the same as banning them.

But that is not all.
It is effectively also a ban, on all known incandescent replacements for ordinary ("general service") household bulbs, including the touted Halogen types, by 2020 at the latest.

Besides, as also seen from all the pre-existing CFL programs, the temporarily allowed Halogen-type incandescent alternatives are less pushed and less available (and in any case are different to simple incandescents in light quality etc, as well as costing much more for marginal savings, which is why few buy them voluntarily).

Moreover, MediaMatters, the Natural Resources Defense Council, and similar defenders of the ban, for some reason choose to leave out part of the 2007 EISA specifications...

"The Secretary of Energy shall report to Congress on the time frame for commercialization of lighting to replace incandescent and halogen incandescent lamp technology.
If the final rule does not produce savings that are greater than or equal to the savings from a minimum efficacy standard of 45 lumens per watt, effective beginning January 1, 2020, the Secretary shall prohibit the sale of any general service lamp that does not meet a minimum efficacy standard of 45 lumens per watt"

EIA at Dept of Energy confirms:
"The second tier of efficiency improvements becomes effective by 2020, essentially requiring general service bulbs to be as efficient as today's CFLs"

No incandescent light bulb on the market, none of the new "Ecosaver" halogen or other incandescent types meet these requirements for general service type lamps. Period!
Anyone seen a "Halogen" rather than "CFL" Government/Industry replacement program?
Since the replacement incandescents politically involve expensive light bulbs with marginal energy savings compared to CFLs, and industrially involve a lack of relative profitability, the likelihood of manufacturers making more energy efficient unprofitable incandescents can be taken as zilch, beyond the immediate trumpeted alternatives offered, that allay consumer fears.

In the already ban legislated EU for example, where the regulation specifications will similarly ban all general service halogen replacements, Philips have abandoned their pre-ban trumpeted plans to improve Ecosaver halogens, beyond the currently available types.

So why would anyone want to make unprofitable incandescents, banned or not?
Because the profitability is relative:
Local startups can easily and cheaply make simple standard incandescents for local consumption and make profits
- the profits are relative, not all manufacturers can afford to make and market complex CFLs or LEDs.
The major manufacturer cartel lobbying going on of course also serves to stop any such upstarts!
Nothing new in this:
See the Phoebus cartel story, how all the major manufacturers got together to maximize standard light bulb lifespans to the 1000 hours that they still are today.

So much for green sustainability thinking, when the green brigade happily seek bans on simple, locally made locally transported and safe-to-use products, light bulbs that themselves of course don't burn coal or release CO2 gas!


The above EIA quotation brought up efficiency:
the eventual requirement of general service bulbs "to be as efficient as today's CFLs".

Well, is it not great that Government is making sure that Americans use more efficient bulbs?

1. "Efficiency" is a relative word:
Energy efficiency is of course not the same as performance efficiency, whether with fast cars or bright light bulbs!

Yes, incandescents use less energy as light:
But are much easier to make bright 100 W + incandescents, than equivalently bright, omnidirectional CFLs or LEDs.
Go figure.

2. The defence "this is not a ban like on some unsafe product, just a measure to make sure the product saves more energy"
This just makes the measure less - not more - legitimate!
Energy saving mandates, whether on buildings, cars, washing machines or light bulbs, also change their characteristics - there is no free lunch.
Besides, why should someone not be allowed to use energy, that they pay for in its provision, as they wish.

3. The idea that Government needs to tell industry to make energy efficient products.

Energy saving products have always been invented, and improved.
Since energy saving is a positive money-saving quality, the energy saving bulbs can be marketed and sold as such (like some batteries, cleaner fluid etc in commercials)... "Expensive to buy but cheap in the long run".
Adequate free market competition is all that is needed: Governments can help new ideas to the market, but no more than that.

So Price is no Excuse:
Even if it was, incandescents could be taxed and help pay for price-lowering subsidies on CFLs and LEDs.
Choice, equilibrated market, energy usage reduction (supposedly), and Government income.
Wrong on free market principles, but obviously better than bans for all sides, not least for cash-strapped pro-ban left-oriented Governments
(Hello California, British Columbia, Washington, Brussels, Canberra...)

Ban or no ban,
end-user product regulations are token measures, certainly so in the case of light bulbs.
Only around 1% of grid electricity usage is theoretically saved from it (Dept of Energy etc sources), and much less in overall energy savings, as covered on http://ceolas.net/#li171x giving more relevant generation, grid distribution and consumption based policies.
Light bulbs don’t burn coal or release any CO2 gas!

Household energy saving does not necessarily save money anyway, at least not overall, to the extent promised:
Electricity companies are allowed to raise prices, or be taxpayer-subsidised, for any lowered electricity sales.
As already seen in CFL programs in California, Ohio etc

It is a new strange kind of political logic, not to allow the sale of simple safe cheap and popular products:
Little point in banning what people don’t actually want!

Clean Tech Manufacturers of green (often patented) products are happy to avoid market competition, through Government subsidies, product substitution programs and switchover regulations, allowing them to greatly profit in shifting expensive wares which would otherwise not be bought, while singing about "Saving the Earth".

Governments should not keep falling for this idiocy.

Yes, energy saving is good: So deal with it directly then.
Don't keep supporting all your manufacturing buddies (hello, Solyndra) to such end.


Danny said...

Also in Europe all the frosted standard bulbs banned immediately in 2009
So there's a guy selling condoms for light bulbs!

Lighthouse said...

thanks for that, yes I think I posted about that...if not it's surely one to post for a blog!

Anonymous said...

Advocacy for outdated incandescdent

Also ridiculus using a solid state computer to deride the
use of solid state lighting-
thats what bulb ban resistance is

Lighthouse said...

All lighting has advantages and disadvantages, including LEDs

RGB LEDs in particular have great light quality, but at a high price,
and with brightness issues beyond 60W equivalence, especially omnidirectionally.
LEDs also have toxic content and recycling issues (http://ceolas.net/#li20ledax )

Conversely, the "obsolescence" tag of old incandescents also means they are well known and safe.
Welcoming the new does not mean having to ban the old.