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

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Why Incandescent Light Bulb Ban is Wrong:
The Deeper Reasons

The worldwide attempts to ban incandescent bulbs by defined standards have met some resistance mainly in North America (funding block of USA incandescent ban implementation as renewed July 2013, 2 year implementation delay in Canada to 2014, with possible further delay or abandonment).

As the phase out continues, it has become obvious what the main talking points are.

Usual arguments:

1. If it's a ban or not.
The response being "We are not banning any bulbs, just making them more energy efficient,
you can still buy similar incandescent bulbs!
Not allowing certain bulbs obviously bans them, and the several reasons the above does not hold is covered on the page How Regulations are Wrongly Justified, point 1

2. How terrible the fluorescent "energy saving" bulbs (CFLs) are.
Again the standard reply is "Well you can still buy types of incandescent bulbs..and look at the new LED bulbs!"
Certainly there are issues with fluorescents, also covered via above link, but the obvious retort about other alternatives should not be accepted either.
There is a flurry of "Great LED bulbs" promotion on the internet.
Certainly all bulbs have advantages, but more intrinsically,
Incandescent = Bulb
Fluorescent = Tube
LED = Sheet
in biggest relative advantages.
There is something strange about "progress" being cloning simple existing alternatives.
Besides, the rare earth mineral use of LEDs and other environmental issues of these complex bulbs should not be ignored either.
See How Regulations are Wrongly Justified, point 5 and later points in that rundown.

The following therefore is summary of arguments that focus on what most commentators seem to ignore or not know about.
They also appear in the linked rather lengthy discourse, but I wanted to highlight and sharpen some of the points made.
While originally aimed at a US audience, it has parallels in the EU and elsewhere, as the further references in the above linked rundown shows.

Much is applicable also to houses, cars, white goods, vacuum cleaners, TV sets, computers and all else subject to increasing and choice reducing regulation.

Industrial Policy and Energy Efficiency Regulation, as on Light Bulbs

Energy saving is not the only reason to choose a bulb,
incandescents have several advantages over replacement technology,
and touted "allowed" halogen type replacements will be phased out too.
Halogen incandescents still have differences anyway and cost much more for marginal usage savings which is why they are not popular either with consumers or politicians - no "halogen switchover programs".

Re "old obsolescent" incandescents,
that also means they are well known in usage compared to questionably safe alternatives.

Progress is not a bunch of bureacrats setting arbitrary energy usage cut off points.
Progress involves competition with existing alternatives: governments keen on helping "energy saving" products to market can always do so, without necessarily having continuing subsidies on those products.

Society laws should be about society savings,
not about what light bulb Johnny wants to use in his bedroom, personal money savings or not.
Money savings are hardly there (or take a VERY long time) for most rarely used bulbs in 40+ bulb US households, Energy Star data.
Tax payer subsidies for CFL/LED bulbs should be remembered, as for utilities:
Money savings are not there anyway when utilities are compensated for lower sales (eg California)

Overall society energy savings are negligible as well.
Cambridge Scientific Alliance (normally UK Gov supporting in advising on energy use reduction):

"The total reduction in EU energy use would be 0.54 x 0.8 x 0.76% = 0.33%
This figure is almost certainly an overestimate......
.....Which begs the question: is it really worth it?
Politicians are forcing a change to a particular technology which is
fine for some applications but not universally liked, and which has
The problem is that legislators are unable to tackle the big issues of
energy use effectively, so go for the soft target of a high profile
domestic use of energy...
...This is gesture politics

The society savings are comparatively small also on US Dept of Energy grid data, around 1%, and that does not include the greater life cycle energy use of the more complex replacements, or the fact that night use involves mainly spare grid capacity anyway
(= already there, for whoever wants to pay for it), or other factors as linked.

Supposed CO2 savings hardly there either,
as coal plants are slow and expensive to turn down at relevant times outside peak demand (DEFRA, APTECH referenced, previous link).
Effectively, the same coal is often burned regarding what bulb is on or off.

Apart from negligible society usage savings, complex CFL/LED replacements involve more energy and CO2 in mining, manufacture (including component parts) transport and recycling - while if not recycled, then one has the dumping of mercury containing fluorescents and the loss of rare earth minerals of LEDs.

Easier to locally make simple generic cheap regular bulbs for small and startup companies to give local jobs too:
compared to patented complex bulbs mostly made in major (China) plants and brought over on low grade bunker-oil powered ships.

Long lasting low cost 10 000 - 20 000 hr incandescent bulbs can and are being made for mining and other industry, but kept away from consumer outlets for industrial political reasons, as follows.

Why did GE, Osram/Sylvania and Philips welcome the ban?
Why welcome what you can or can't make?

GE, Osram/Sylvania and Philips involvement in US lighting legislation
has been well covered in the press (eg Moorhead of Philips own
description of involvement, and GE executives on Gov advisory board),
and in a 2011 book by Howard Brandston co authored with Michael Leahy
"I, Light Bulb".
Howard Brandston (Congress consultant on lighting, a NY lighting
designer by profession) was himself involved in the hearings leading
up to the ban

Quote: The NEMA Lamp Subcommittee was composed of General Electric,
Osram Sylvania, and Phillips, the same industrial giants who formed
the old Phoebus Cartel back in 1924.
When I asked NEMA for help in fighting the incandescent light ban, I
was politely told that they could not be involved in any research
program like that.
In April 2007, ahead of Congress hearings, NEMA then announced its
support for energy efficient lighting policy...


And the Phoebus cartel?
That is why 1000 hr standard life on regular bulbs endures - they fixed it.
As said, incandescent bulbs lasting 20 000 hrs can and are being made at low
cost for industry like mining.

And now?
Financed by the World Bank under UN auspices, Philips and Osram are part of the UNEP en.lighten program allowing profitable disposal worldwide in developing countries of CFL (or LED) light bulbs that they presumably would not otherwise sell for equivalent income.
The supposed society savings are negligible as previously referenced, and not counting dumping of mercury containing CFLs and loss of rare earth minerals in LEDs.

It's a bit as if generic patent-free penicillin was blocked and discouraged, so pharmaceutical companies could sell their expensive patented replacements to poor African countries.

There is nothing wrong in private enterprise looking for profit.
There is every wrong in assisting them by removing competition rather than increasing it.

Product standards,
are always welcome for consumer information and to assist cross-border trade.
However, it does not necessitate banning products not meeting the standards.
Even if incandescents needed specific targeting, they could be taxed and the income used to lower prices of alternatives (so people "not just hit by taxes").
But as described, governments could rather help alternatives to market without continuing subsidies, and get the manufacturers themselves to properly market their products.

People have always desired products that save energy.
"Expensive to buy but cheap in the long run":
If that is true, then as with batteries (Energizer bunny commercials) and washing up liquids, manufacturers could advertise accordingly, rather than run to regulators lobbying for bans on less profitable cheap patent expired regular bulb alternatives.

Energy saving is good,
but "energy waste" hardly comes from a personal choice of a product to use for its specific advantages,
"energy waste" is rather from unnecessary product use, as with municipal and office lighting continually left on at night.

How many politicians should it take to change a light bulb?
How many people should be allowed to choose?