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Uncle Orson Reviews Everything
January 13, 2008

First appeared in print in The Rhinoceros Times, Greensboro, NC.

Congress Is Taking Away Our Light Bulbs

Go to the cupboard where you keep your spare light bulbs and bid those good old incandescent bulbs a fond good-bye.

Congress has enacted, and President Bush signed, a new set of regulations that require all household light bulbs to meet energy-use standards that incandescent bulbs just can't meet.

That means that by 2012, it will be illegal to offer for sale in the United States any incandescent light bulbs -- except perhaps a new generation of "high-efficiency" incandescents. Can't wait to see those.

Naturally, the fanatical puritans of the Religion of Environmentalism are complaining that this new law doesn't go far enough in requiring the immediate adoption of efficient lighting methods.

Also naturally, they call it a "Bush" regulation as they criticize it. If they liked it, they would label it as "the new law passed by the Democratic Congress." All evil comes from Bush (who actually lives in an environmentally sensitive house in Texas), all good from Democrats (who fly around in jet planes and wrap themselves in "environmental credits" to buy indulgences for their sins).

Here's the fact: This is a traditional example of caring more about some ridiculous and unnecessary tenet of the environmental religion than about the actual health and safety of living human beings.

If you really believe that electricity-generating power plants are going to destroy the world because of their greenhouse-gas emissions, when replace them all with nuclear power plants and have done with it.

This lightbulb gambit is designed to cut electrical use by 25-30% (the fanatics are angry that it wasn't 70%). But it could be 100% if the environmental religion didn't also declare nuclear energy to be Satan.

(Of course, those are not percentages of all electricity used in America -- only of electricity used for lighting.)

What's the Alternative?

The problem is that the replacement bulbs are not good.

We all heard a few years ago about exploding halogen bulbs that can start fires. So we removed all halogens from our house.

Now they want us all to buy Compact Fluorescent Lamps (CFLs). But these bulbs all contain mercury. Safety regulations forbid us to throw them away with our regular garbage because they're toxic.

If you drop one of these bulbs and break it, you're supposed to evacuate your house immediately and stay out for fifteen minutes, until the mercury vapors dissipate!

Also, like all fluorescents, CFLs flicker. (All light bulbs using AC power flicker at a very rapid rate, but CFLs make it far more noticeable.) It has been shown that fluorescents, including CFLs, can significantly increase migraine headaches in people who are prone to having them, and can negatively affect epileptics.

Oh, yes, please give me more migraines and a house full of mercury gas!

Before I knew about these dangers, I tried CFLs. The first round failed miserably because the first CFLs were too big. Their stems fit in the sockets of lamps, all right, but the bulb itself wouldn't fit inside the light fixture! Not ceiling fixtures, not lamps with standard-size harps to hold up the shade.

Worse yet, CFLs don't play well with dimmer switches or three-step switches. Forget that bedside lamp that can switch between gentle light and bright reading light!

This is the problem when our laws are made to pacify fanatics whose tenets are shaped by religion instead of science: they won't compromise. They decide what must be done, and then savagely attack anyone who doesn't comply completely.

The Environmental Puritans Don't Care

This would not be such a problem if they were wise in their choices. But they're not. They rush their decisions -- as with global warming, they make it part of their religion without waiting for actual evidence or exploring alternative views.

If Bush had come up with this regulation himself, then the environmentalists would be screaming at him for trying to put poison-gas bulbs into American homes! But because they came up with it, poisonous mercury vapors are "worth the risk."

What's especially galling is that since global warming is almost certainly not caused by greenhouse gases emitted by human activities (global temperature fluctuations have no relation to CO2 emissions, as a demonstrable, historical fact), the supposed benefit of this mandated light bulb change is trivial or nonexistent, while the increase in hazards is not insignificant.

Someone is going to die or suffer serious, permanent health damage because of this change -- nobody's going to die because of human-induced global warming.

But we already went through the same nonsense with Chloro-fluorocarbons (CFCs), most notably Freon gas. This refrigerant was banned, not because of any evidence that it caused harm, but because there was an obviously-absurd hypothesis that these heavier-than-air compounds were somehow rising to the outer atmosphere where they were eating up the ozone layer.

No explanation about how they would get up there. Nor any explanation about why the thinning of the ozone layer only happened in the southern hemisphere, where CFC use was lowest. And since their hypothesis was that since CFCs don't degrade, they just stay up there eating ozone, no explanation about how it could ever get better.

The actual evidence was that the ozone thinning began before CFCs came into common use; since then, these supposedly indestructible CFCs must have gone somewhere, since the ozone "hole" has been healing itself without any human intervention.

(Oh, hadn't you heard that news? Yes, we're not all going to get skin cancer after all. But they don't give so much publicity to their "never mind." Perhaps because we might stop listening to their absurd, anti-scientific religious claims.)

Meanwhile, though, Freon-using appliances all had to be changed over at great expense. And in third-world countries, the spread of refrigeration -- with its enormous health and safety benefits -- was significantly slowed, at a real but unmeasurable cost in human survival and safety.

But who cares? Human beings are the one part of the environment that the enviropuritans don't give a rat's petoot about. In fact, the True Believers think that a steep decline in human population would be good for "the planet" (but hard on our species).

So for all we know, deaths from lack of refrigerants for food preservation, as well as from mercury emissions from broken CFLs, are actually part of the plan.

What About LEDs?

Another alternative is Light-Emitting Diodes (LEDs), which we already use in all kinds of things like mini-flashlights and battery-powered reading lamps.

The problem is that it takes a lot of LEDs to equal the light of a single incandescent.

This holiday season, I ordered six LED light bulbs. Actually, the bulb shape is not necessary -- the outer globe doesn't actually do anything. What these "bulbs" consist of is a bunch of LEDs attached to a stem that fits in a standard light socket.

Our electrician was as interested as I was in seeing how they worked. After all, on paper they sound great. They use far less electricity than even the CFLs (a fraction of a watt per LED). They are also cold light -- they don't create heat.

Well, we're installing a mini recording studio in our house for broadcast and podcast work, and the LED lights sounded great. No heat! Low power usage! And they have a longer lifespan than the average dog!

So we put one of the new bulbs into a ceiling fixture. It gave off about as much light as a 15-watt bulb. Three of them in the same fixture were about the same as a single 40-watt bulb.

The problem is not that the LED bulbs can't give off enough light. The problem is that it takes a lot more sockets to put in enough bulbs to match the light of three incandescents.

So in the ceiling of my mini-studio, we have three bare-bulb, four-bulb bathroom fixtures. With twelve of these LED bulbs in the ceiling, the room is bright.

The electrical use is still markedly less than CFL or incandescent fixtures to get the same amount of light. No poisonous vapors, no flicker or migraine promotion.

But, alas, the LED "bulbs" are expensive.

You don't have to replace them very often -- once every ten or twenty years. But you're paying twenty or thirty bucks a bulb. You save money in the long run -- but you have to buy them in the short run!

And how many of us are eager to replace our lamps and ceiling fixtures with LED arrays? If I were building a new house, I'd install LED arrays in every room. But retrofitting them is expensive.

So in the meantime, I'm stocking up in the soon-to-be-illegal incandescents. I have migraine-prone employees and one migraine-prone wife -- no way are we going with CFLs. Plus, I'm not interested in fleeing our house to avoid mercury vapors when, inevitably, we break a bulb.

Only One Brand: GE

GE bulbs are not perfect. They just suck less than the other brands of incandescent bulb.

When the local grocery stores stopped stocking GE and gave us the cheaper Phillips brand (or, here and there, Sylvania) we went along with the joke and bought a lot of them.

Within a few weeks, we thought our wonderful kitchen/dining room light fixtures were failing. Bulbs would go dark, but the bulb hadn't burned out. We'd touch it and it would flicker back on. We'd replace one bulb with another and the new one wouldn't light either.

We were thinking we'd have to buy all new fixtures, which would really annoy us because the design we like so much is no longer made. We'd have had to settle for something worse.

But instead I had the bright idea that even though the bulbs weren't burnt out, they might still be the source of the problem because they didn't fit properly in the socket.

Sure enough, when I replaced all the Phillips bulbs with GE bulbs, every one of them worked and our kitchen/dining room has been ablaze with light ever since.

Sylvania bulbs weren't as bad as the Phillips, but we simply get better results in every setting with GE bulbs.

So we're buying GE Reveal bulbs by mail order, a crate at a time. Bulbs have a shelf life, so I know it can't go on forever. But I hate it when fanatics make a decree that I can't use something that works, that does no harm, and that pleases me.

It's like our drought regulations: filling decorative ponds is forbidden -- with no exception for ponds that are full of living fish. So we're going to have to give our fish back to Aquamain (for a 1/4 credit on buying new fish when the drought regulations end) or let them die -- because our city council thinks that the lives of fish don't matter, and the needs of fish owners don't have to be taken into account.

Likewise, environmental wackoes have sold to Congress and President Bush their absurd religious faith in the vengeful god called Global Warming -- and as a result, we either have to change all our light fixtures to massive LED arrays or introduce exploding halogens or poison-gas-containing CFLs into our homes, where we'd like to keep our children safe.

If the do-gooders would make sure they actually have a clue what they're talking about, and even check to make sure they're not doing harm with their "solutions" to fantasy problems, then we could tolerate them.

In the meantime, though, why are we sitting here taking this nonsense lying down? I think the incandescent bulb is worth fighting for.

I think we should make our Congressmen's and Senators' lives pure hell until they repeal this destructive, dangerous, and needless regulation.

Why should we allow our elected representatives to require us to do this ridiculous, expensive, and dangerous thing when there is no verifiable evidence that this will help stop a "problem" that only true believers can see anyway?

Let me say this again: No scientist is saying that cutting back on our light bulb use will actually stop or even slow global warming even if it is caused by humans. In other words, we can cut back all we want, but nobody thinks it will help!

So let's not do it. Let's have demonstrations where people wearing gas masks warn of the dangers of CFLs, and hold up incandescents while we demand our right as Americans to keep letting Phillips sell us their crappy bulbs.

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