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

Monday, April 14, 2014

A JOLT with Sensible Energy Policy...

Interesting article regarding the overall point of banning light bulbs rather than dealing with power plants themselves for energy or emission policy
(light bulbs which don't themselves burn any fossil fuel or release any supposed global warming emissions, though the bulbs do provide a bit of heat!)

"How many Virginians Does it Take to Screw-up a Light Bulb Phase-Out?"
April 11, 2014 by Kit Mathers, Associate Copy Editor, JOLT (The Richmond Journal of Law and Technology)

How many Virginians Does it Take to Screw-up a Light Bulb Phase-Out?

In January, Congress, through overwhelming bipartisan cooperation, approved, and President Obama signed into law, a $1.1 trillion omnibus spending bill; a provision of which precludes the U.S. Department of Energy (“DOE”) from spending allocated funds to enforce twilight measures of a “light bulb phase-out” mandated by the 2007 Energy Independence and Security Act (“EISA”).[1]

The phase-out, which effectively began in January 2012, requires that light bulbs produce a certain level of brightness at specified energy levels.[2]

Of particular significance to the average consumer, traditional incandescent light bulbs are incapable of fulfilling the new energy efficiency standards and as of January 1, 2014 60- and 40-watt incandescent light bulbs (which represent half of the consumer light bulb market) are no longer allowed to be manufactured or imported into the U.S.[3]

Overall, the standards set forth by the EISA are predicted to result in annual electric bill savings of nearly $13-billion, power savings equivalent to the output of 30 large power plants, and will reduce carbon dioxide emissions by about 100 million tons per year.[4]

The spending bill’s ban is not particularly formidable from the perspective of many environmentalists and “pro phase-out” light bulb manufacturers who have characterized it as a nuisance that can’t possibly derail the “market shift” toward more energy-efficient light bulbs.[5]

But should we be more supportive of the spending bill’s ban despite the EISA’s potential environmental benefits?
In support of the ban, House Republicans have stated that EISA phase-out requirements are characteristic of government overreach, and enforcement measures should not be tolerated.[6]

Is there any merit to the House Republicans’ argument?
Is federal product regulation really the proper avenue for catalyzing change in consumer power consumption?
The tension at the heart of the light bulb phase-out is representative of a fundamental issue that must be addressed in any discussion of “where” energy regulations should be focused. I tend to agree with House Republicans who are wary of the government’s reach into consumer purchasing power, but perhaps end-user regulation (“downstream”) is the most parsimonious way of realizing change in energy use and accompanying (upstream) emissions.
Upstream regulation is inescapably difficult. State and federal regulation of power plants and their emissions is tedious work, often drawn out interminably by litigation. But then again, why not increasingly regulate power plants themselves if we are operating under the guise that the end goal is to limit carbon emissions and power plant out-put? It’s not as though the light bulbs are the source of poor energy management decisions or egregious carbon emissions. Understanding why the EISA, in large part, came to be makes the decision to regulate downstream consumer choice even less palatable.

While the EISA does not outrightly proscribe the manufacture or importation of all incandescent light bulbs, it has the net effect of increasing market prevalence and selection of more expensive, compact fluorescent light bulbs (“CFLs”) and light emitting diodes (“LEDs”) which is extremely beneficial to major light bulb manufacturers.
As Timothy Carey of the Washington Examiner details, the 2007 Energy Independence and Security Act “wasn’t a case of an industry getting on board with an inevitable regulation in order to tweak it. The lighting industry was the main reason the legislation was moving.”[7] The light bulb industry is, by its nature, a competitive market with no significant impediments to entry. Characteristic of such competitive markets, under the neoclassical economic model, is product pricing at marginal cost – the cost of producing one additional unit of output- which results in low profit margins.[8] GE, Philips and Sylvania, which dominate the U.S. incandescent light bulb market, want to “convert their dominance into price hikes,” but because market entry is not significantly encumbered by manufacturing or regulatory costs, consumers will gladly purchase new alternative brands that offer bulbs at, or close to, marginal cost.[9] Market giants, with significant capital available for research and development programs, sought to extinguish the threat of competition (which keeps profit margins low) by expending significant money to improve the incandescent light bulb, primarily through advancing halogen, LED and fluorescent technologies.[10] These “energy efficient bulbs” sell at a much higher price point compared to incandescent light bulbs, and because of this, consumer choice has remained somewhat stagnant and heavily biased toward incandescents. Light bulb manufacturers, aware that consumers won’t willingly skirt cost benefit considerations in light bulb selection, have thus collaborated with groups like the NRDC in lobbying for the phase out of incandescents; their agenda being the “push” of profitable products rather than environmental conservancy.[11] Undoubtedly, there are great advantages to newer bulb technologies, as well as associated costs.[12] However, it’s extremely hard to justify the handcuffing of consumer freedom of choice when it is being instituted by government elites and unelected bureaucrats.[13]

All in all, it is extremely important to ask, where (or at what phase) should regulatory efforts be focused (and why)? The upstream power plants, downstream consumers, or both?
Perhaps the fact that light bulb manufacturers are sustaining windfall profits from federal regulation is an inevitable consequence; in any regulatory effort there will always be a party that benefits, perhaps grossly, from regulation. It will be interesting to see what happens to the spending bill’s ban in the coming months, and whether or not downstream regulation will accomplish its goals.

[1] Bill Chappell, Obama Signs Trillion-Dollar Spending Bill, NPR, (January 17, 2014), http://www.npr.org/blogs/thetwo-way/2014/01/17/263511534/obama-signs-trillion-dollar-federal-spending-bill.

[2] Jeremy Kaplan, Last light: Final Phaseout of Incandescent Bulbs Coming Jan. 1, FOX NEWS, (December 13, 2013), http://www.foxnews.com/tech/2013/12/13/final-phase-out-incandescent-light-bulbs-jan-1/.

[3] Patrick J. Kiger, U.S. Phase-out of Incandescent Light Bulbs Continues in 2014 with 40-, 60-Watt Varieties, NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC, (December 31, 2013), http://energyblog.nationalgeographic.com/2013/12/31/u-s-phase-out-of-incandescent-light-bulbs-continues-in-2014-with-40-60-watt-varieties/.

[4] NRDC Fact Sheet, Shedding New Light on the U.S. Energy Efficiency Standards for Everyday Light Bulbs, NRDC, (January 2013), http://www.nrdc.org/energy/energyefficientlightbulbs/files/shedding-new-light-FS.pdf.

[5] Wendy Koch, Congress to Bar Enforcement of Light-bulb Phaseout, USA TODAY, (January 14, 2014), http://www.usatoday.com/story/news/nation/2014/01/14/coal-projects-light-bulb-rules/4476103/.

[6] Timothy P. Carney, Industry, not Environmentalists, Killed Traditional Light Bulbs, WASHINGTON EXAMINER, (January 1, 2014), http://washingtonexaminer.com/article/2541430.
[Tim Carney has extensively and critically covered the issue, from an industrial political angle, as covered on this blog here before]

[7] Id.

[8] See id.

[9] See id.

[10] See id.

[11] For a comical portrayal of the “story behind the ban” (in both the U.S. and Canada) see this crude cartoon: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ta2ozf_uJJ8 (a feature from infra note 15).
["Mr Stinkypants" as also featured before here on freedomlightbulb]

[12] It’s contended that new light bulb technologies are not all that “efficient” when used by the average consumer. I recommend looking at Paul Wheaton’s website for a critique of the science behind the phase-out: http://www.richsoil.com/CFL-fluorescent-light-bulbs.jsp.
[Good article, also linked here previously]

[13] See id.

"It's not as though the light bulbs are the source of poor energy management decisions or egregious carbon emissions."
Light bulbs don't burn coal or release CO2 gas.
Power plants might - and might not.
If there's a problem - Deal with the problem.

Little attention is paid to practicality rather than side-by-side bulb energy saving theory.
This includes not just compensatory consumer behavior, like leaving lights on because cheaper (and fluorescent on-off switching decreases life span) or using more LEDs due being directional, or higher than supposed wattages for perceived output weakness etc.

Specifically, it includes the main evening/night off-peak time of use of simple incandescent bulbs when surplus electricity available, and coal plants in particular - the main "culprit" - effectively burn the same coal regardless of bulb used, due their minimum night cycle level covering any such demand and not being lowered due operational cost
(slow downturn and stoking up to daytime level and associated wear and

As referenced with grid data, coal plant and energy commission references etc, below.
Including that those manufacturers already cooperated in the Phoebus cartel to limit standard incandescent lifespan to 1000 hrs...
There is nothing wrong in manufacturers seeking and lobbying for profitable decisions.
There is every wrong in politicians handing them profits at the stroke of a pen.

As for the "necessity" to regulate given that consumers prefer cheap products that hardly holds up either. Plenty of other products are marketed and sold as being "Expensive to buy but Cheap in the long run".
And, even if bulbs "had to" be targeted, competition stimulation (helping new bulbs to market without continuing subsidy) or taxation/subsidy policy, taxing cheap bulbs which could cover price lowering subsidy on alternatives, would still be more relevant to both supposedly save energy, and keep choice.

How many politicians should it take to change a light bulb?

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.

Friday, April 11, 2014

Disc Power

It should be clear by now to readers of this blog how incandescent light bulbs are popular, simple, cheap and yes, efficient, in needing few parts to produce bright light, and without supposed energy saving to society (incandescents as the "real green" bulbs).

Unsurprising, then, that people around the world are using workarounds to be able to keep using them. Dumb governments, who make pointless and unpopular laws to suit lobbying profitmakers rather than their citizens, will always find such reactions.

In Europe as in North America, one such avenue has been the use of still legal "rough service" type of bulbs, as well as currently temporarily allowed halogen types.
There are also alternative voltage and current altering ways (in bulbs or externally) that extend incandescent lifetime albeit with some brightness loss.
The various workarounds were most recently covered in the post "USA and Canada Light Bulb Ban: Now and in the Future" from earlier this year.

One innovative way was as seen recently launched in the USA by two bright entrepreneurs, Lisa Elder and Trishah Woolley, using a disc with any ordinary light bulb.
To expand a little more about the California based Power Disc venture, edited extracts from the website, powerdisc.com...

It consists of a nylon reinforced thermoset plastic disc, a solid-state rectifying diode and a foam washer with an adhesive surface. The PowerDiscTM is attached to the base of a light bulb by means of the 3M adhesive coated foam so that the center contact of the bulb is in contact with one end of the diode. When screwed into a light socket, the other end of the diode contacts the center contact of the light socket.

By converting the electricity power used by the bulb from AC to DC, the PowerDisc™ significantly reduces energy consumption up to 42% and also extends the bulb life up to 100 times therefore reducing bulb replacement costs.

In other words, 120 volts of alternating current (AC) are converted to approximately 85 volts direct current (DC).
The light bulb filaments, that actually create the light we see, will burn at a much lower temperature...The degree to which the filament is heated is directly related to the life of the bulb.

Using the formula from the General Electric Incandescent Lamps Booklet (ref. GE #TP-1100R2 5/84) we calculate the life of the bulb with the reduced voltage.... example...

[On the light output reduction issue, making comparisons:]

As it is well known in the industry, all energy efficient light bulbs will have some reduction in lumens (light output), initially up to 30% over the first couple of months. Take note of the packaging for CFL and LED bulbs, they claim they will operate at 70% efficacy - which means they know their bulbs will lose 30% in lumens. Example, the packaging states 1000 lumens but they "guarantee" that the bulb will operate at 700 lumens.

Also the "long life" incandescent and halogen bulbs which operate at 130 volts, when you use it in a 120 volt socket, there is an immediate 25% lumen loss from what is stated on the packaging. Example, the packaging states 1000 lumens but in a 120V socket it is really 750 lumens.

With the PowerDisc there is also an initial lumen loss, the difference is the bulb will maintain that lumen level for the life of the bulb- it won't get dimmer and dimmer over time until it burns out. If it is necessary to maintain similar lumen levels it is recommended to increase the wattage of the light bulb used. The lumen level of the light bulb is dependent upon the manufacturer, clear or frosted and type of light bulb being used. Also keep in mind the lumen level you have upon insertion will be the lumen level for the rest of the life of your bulb until the day it burns out, which means it does not diminish over time, whereas with CFLs and LEDs you get around a 30% lumen loss in the first couple of months, then it slowly decreases until it is very dim. This makes for safety and security issues in certain areas.

If it is important to maintain the visible light level, a higher wattage bulb should be used...but as bulb wattage increases, efficiency in the transformation of electricity to light also increases.

So to begin with the downside, there is a seeming 25-30% brightness loss which means higher electricity costs for a bulb of given brightness, compared with an ordinary simple incandescent bulb.
But... the point is of course is that as such bulbs gradually get banned (and in the USA as in Europe there is talk of controlling the availability of rough service incandescents for ordinary consumers), it allows the extended use of any such bulb without hoarding.
Also, as they say, fluorescents and LEDs dim as they are used, reducing their effective light output too.
Finally the advantage of not having to change bulbs may be useful in some locations.

Overall, good to see this innovative spirit from others who are against the ban - and doing something about it!

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.

Friday, April 4, 2014

Double Dumb IKEA 2016 LED Bulb Policy

short version (11 secs)

full version (1 minute 1 second)

IKEA, as some may know, made a big noise about not selling incandescent light bulbs a while back, pushing fluorescent bulb replacements - ahead of any government ban.

Fluorescent bulbs have come under increasing criticism, with LED bulbs becoming the new rage:
So IKEA then make a big noise about how they are not going to sell either incandescent or fluorescent bulbs, only selling LED bulbs from 2016 - again ahead of any government ban.
The above video arises from a commercial currently running in Europe, though the policy was announced in 2012 (LEDs magazine article)

IKEA are of course perfectly free to sell what they want:
But normally stores don't promote sales based on excluding alternatives.
IKEA effectively say that people are too stupid to choose themselves - so IKEA will choose for them!

Unfortunately LED bulbs themselves are increasingly being shown to have several problems,
as per official studies.
Hence the acknowledging of problems in an 11 point rundown in recent weeks, just as the IKEA ad is running...
LEDs Magazine article March 2014, point title extracts quoted below.
LEDs magazine, as linked before, is obviously in favor of LED technology, so the media source is interesting of itself.
As is the author: "James Broderick is the lighting program manager at the US Department of Energy." Of course he believes the problems will be solved, he could hardly keep his job otherwise in the ban-promoting Department...

Lesson 1:....testing requirements necessary to counter exaggerated claims of performance by some manufacturers ...led to high testing costs.

Lesson 2: Despite the promise of long life, there’s no standard way to rate the lifetime and reliability of LED lighting products.

Lesson 3: Although specifiers prefer complete families of products, the rapid evolution of LED technology presents a challenge to manufacturers in creating and maintaining complete product lines.

Lesson 4: The range of color quality available with LED lighting products, and the limitations of existing color metrics, may confuse users.

Lesson 5: The color delivered by some LEDs shifts enough over time to negatively impact adoption in some applications.

Lesson 6: Some LEDs flicker noticeably, which may negatively impact adoption in some applications.

Lesson 7: LEDs can cause glare, which may negatively impact adoption in some applications.

Lesson 8: Achieving high-quality dimming performance with LED lamps is difficult....

Lesson 9: Greater interoperability of lighting control components and more sensible specifications of lighting control systems are required to maximize the energy savings from LED lighting

Lesson 10: Lack of LED lighting product serviceability and interchangeability has created market adoption barriers in certain sectors.

Lesson 11: Existing lighting infrastructure limits the full potential of SSL; more effort is needed to open the doors to new lighting systems and form factors.

That follows on from several other LED issues highlighted,
eg French official Health Agency ANSES that keep complaining that EU have not acted appropriately regarding point source glare, blue light and other possible problems...
"Effets sanitaires des systèmes d’éclairage utilisant des diodes électroluminescentes" arising from a large cross-disciplinary study.

Given the IKEA "green" tone, LED environmental issues should particularly be noted.
Thereby another large cross-disciplinary and cross-institutional study, this time by UC Davis (California USA) and others, showing LED problems from another angle, their great complexity using up rare earth mineral resources, and their toxic mineral content.
As per Scientific American article and references, "The Dark Side of LED Lightbulbs""

This is only the beginning, because the life cycle energy use and emissions of LEDs, (beyond the usually only considered assembly stage), includes raw material mining, component manufacture, assembly, recycling (as recommended per studies) and, not least, transport in all stages.
Much CFL/LED manufacture is outsourced to China, so considerable transport in the distributive phase alone - on bunker oil fueled ships. More on these issues via end link below.

So much for "IKEA green policy"

The overall point is of course that all lighting has advantages and disadvantages, also environmentally.

Yes, incandescents use more energy on side-by-side comparisons.
But they also have limited life cycle energy use (also from being patent expired and simple, so more easily made locally by small firms - sustainably!).
The energy use is mainly off peak night time anyway when surplus electricity capacity available and same coal (the main "culprit") usually burned with effectively same emissions regardless of bulb used at such main times, since turning coal plants down and up again to daytime levels is operatively slow and expensive (wear and tear etc) as amply referenced in the 14 point rundown linked at the bottom of this post.

fluorescents have been castigated on well known mercury and radiation issues, but have their useful and far greater energy saving application as long tubes rather than bulbs, in situations where light left on for relatively large areas for long periods (office areas, also some kitchens)

LED technology, while having the environmental and other issues mentioned, is mainly useful as sheets, as originally applied, rather than incandescent-clone-bulbs, that IKEA are now happy to solely promote.

On an IKEA petty pointless ban-happy attitude, presumably they should soon turn to selling candles.
But then candles, apparently, have a relatively high CO2 related index and their own environmental issues, taking in any use of animal fats (stearin) and paraffin wax.

IKEA unsurprisingly want good publicity given multiple investigations into cheap labour, child labour, political prisoner labour etc they have apparently used...

The irony of using a green forest in the video:
Given all the wood IKEA uses for furniture and the issues from that, with The Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) Feb 2014 just as the ad is being shown, withdrawing certification for the IKEA forestry company (Swedwood) on grounds of malpractice.
Also earlier alleged illegal logging from Chinese suppliers, as covered in the first labour link above.
Also more on using old forests in Finland and Russia.... etc as per online search.

In fairness, nearly all big multinationals come in for criticism one way or another, as per Nike and other scandals, given the difficulty there may be of following the supply chain and everybody involved.

But trying to score some sort of compensating environmental "brownie points" by jumping on the bulb ban bandwagon can and should backfire on the basis of what is, and is not, relevant and true.

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.