Framing the Dialogue

Watt TF

My "collection" of ill-fitting CFL bulbs

We have a battle in our household (it’s not that I’ve long since learned to put the seat down).  Okay it is not really a battle, but I can tolerate compact fluorescent light (“CFL”) bulbs and my wife hates them.  When I tried to sneak them into a socket she would promptly replace them deriding their weak, yellow light.  In the olden days she was pretty much right on with that description, but the newer, higher wattage bulbs are much brighter and clean (whiter light).  These improvements came too late for her though because her preference is set.  I like the fact that the bulbs do seem to last longer, but sometimes trying to get one to fit into a lamp can be a trial-and-error process and that has been expensive especially as I buy the higher output bulbs.  I now have a drawer full of rejects that won’t fit in fixtures gathering dust.  In our room, my lamp has CFL hers has Edison’s classic and that works for us.  But not for long…

As I read the paper yesterday my edition had two separate stories about light bulbs.  I had already removed the one story to use in this post, but was surprised by the second story from the business section of the paper reprinted from the Chicago Tribune with the headline, “Old-style light bulbs will soon be obsolete.”  The story recounts how despite herculean efforts to extol the benefits of CFLs and even give them away, consumers are not feeling the love of CFLs noting that only about 20 percent of household sockets have the bulbs (without doing an formal inventory of our house that is probably pretty accurate) but not for long.

“But a switch could be good for your wallet. And besides, you won’t have much choice soon.”

The Edison bulb will not become “obsolete” in the true sense of the word as I understand it.  There is no clear, better product that precipitates its decline like the car did to the horse-drawn carriage.  The incandescent bulb will be killed by a government fiat signed by Democrat President George W. Bush in 2007 (his second term looks more and more like a Democrat term).  The bulbs will be phased out starting with the 100 watt bulb in January 2012 (I have a friend who is buying a stockpile).  Unfortunately many of the incandescents were made in the United States while the CFL are coming from China and India so it seems that the federal government is outsourcing jobs overseas.

The Edison bulb, however, like death row inmates in Illinois may be getting a reprieve.  The second story in my papers “news/political” section also featured a story on light bulbs.  Many Republicans are uncomfortable with the federal government forcing something that is very popular and has been safely used for generations off of the market when there is no demand from consumers.  There are two efforts; one to repeal the 2007 law and another to begin investigations into safety issues surrounding some of the chemicals used in CFLs (mercury).  Perhaps in the quote of the day was by the Natural Resources Defense Council’s Jim Presswood;

“This is not some sort of nanny-state policy. It harnesses market forces to drive innovation.”

And in a close second place the quote by Kyle Pitsor of the National Electrical Manufacturers Association;

“Consumer choice isn’t being eliminated here.”

I must be living in a parallel world where the federal government passing legislation that essentially eliminates a popular product from the market is neither “nanny-state” nor “eliminates choice.” 

Watt TF!

This post was updated on March 15, 2011 and can be found at this link.

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