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

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

"Why the light bulb ban in so many countries, if it's such a bad idea?"

Updated 1 October, original post 29 September

Those who have read the "How regulations are wrongly justified" point by point argumentation
will see how this could have come about.
Nevertheless, the "many countries" response is an understandable first reaction and keeps coming up, so is worth answering separately with summarized arguments, maybe added as a point to the above section.

Environmentally, standard incandescent light bulbs have been a simple visible target
also for mainstream politicians wishing to be seen to be "doing something" and be "acting resolutely" to save the planet, in the wake of the global warming debate/hysteria of the early 2000's.

As covered more in detail via references in the argumentation rundown, light bulb manufacturers GE, Philips Osram/Sylvania happily joined in the ban chorus to limit choice of the for them less profitable incandescents just as they did with their Phoebus cartel limiting incandescent lifespan choice (hence standard 1000hrs), with political acquiescence also at that time, in blocking USA and Europe market access for any competitor with other ideas.
More on this: http://ceolas net/#phoebuspol

Meanwhile, regarding developing countries worldwide, the United Nations via the UNEP en.lighten program with Philips and Osram are coaxing the implementation of incandescent bans and via the World Bank funding a switch to their "energy saving" bulbs which they presumably would not otherwise sell.
How Philips, Osram, the UN and the World Bank en.lighten the World
Any journalist can check up these matters, the point being that while manufacturers will always seek profitable advantages, they should not be offered undue help, the real blame being with politicians and public officials.

Some tropical countries have been urged to ban incandescents on the grounds of their heat release, in also working against air conditioning cooling, also seen in US Energy Dept building codes. As it happens, in parallell argumentation incandescent heat release is said to be irrelevant in proportionally replacing some heat from other room sources :-)
Of course, incandescents can always voluntarily be substituted in warm countries or seasonal conditions, or chosen anyway for light quality and other described advantages.

The announced ban in China relates more to helping their large profitable CFL/LED industry (with outsourced manufacture by the mentioned manufacturers), rather than any EU type "earth saving" salvation.

Overall, this is also about governments banning rather than countries banning:
new governments don't necessarily agree with implemented bans.
US Republicans are now against the ban, a new Canada government has delayed the ban,
Australia's new conservative government is reportedly against it like other "climate change" inspired taxes and bans, while the incoming New Zealand government scrapped the ban decision by the outgoing government.

Still, any lack of political opposition and will to overturn bans also reflects apparent public indifference. Given the popularity of standard bulbs when consumers have free choice, this might seem surprising.
But firstly - if aware of the ban - there is a natural assumption that it relates to a safety issue with the bulbs. After all, that is (or was) the normal reason to ban products, like lead paint.
And no-one campaigns to bring back lead paint!

But most people, in North America and Europe and likely elsewhere, seem unaware of the ban.
One reason is the gradual phase-out in most countries.
Another reason is that industrial (eg mining etc) incandescent bulbs are now finding their way into American and European stores and shops to meet demand.
There is a double irony here:
Firstly, such bulbs tend to use "even" more energy for the same brightness than standard incandescents (annoying the politicians!)
Secondly, at a still relatively low cost (eg 1 or 2$ or euros) they can last much longer, up to 20 000 hours, which is why as said they were successfully kept away from ordinary consumers until the post-ban demand arose (annoying the major manufacturers!). Ah yes.

So, for example, German shops are increasingly offering such incandescent light bulbs, but (as from the Tagesspiegel 2012) the European Energy Commissioner Günther Oettinger said checks should be made to ensure these were not being sold for domestic use...

The commission has called on German authorities to carry out in-shop inspections to police the ban.
Germany's state market surveillance authorities, who would be responsible for these inspections, offered a mixed response to the EU's request. Berlin and Brandenburg's authorities said they would need extra employees, while the North Rhine-Westphalia office said they had not planned any measures to police the light bulb ban so far

Rather more colourfully put by Der Standard newspaper, about the Commissioner's supposed heated reaction (put in Google translate etc at your leisure)...

EU-Energiekommissar Günther Oettinger soll dies so echauffiert
haben, dass er ein Verbot der stoßfesten Spezialglühbirne anregte und
nationale Marktüberwachungsbehörden dazu aufrief, sie sollten
überprüfen, dass nur ja nicht stoßfeste neben nichtstoßfesten
Glühbirnen angeboten werden.
So würden EU-Vorgaben unterlaufen, sagte
eine seiner Sprecherinnen in deutschen Medien

Yes, how terrible if people can buy what light bulbs they want!

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