Thursday, August 14, 2008

The energy efficient light bulb debate

The arrogance of the present government can be highlighted by their recent announcement to ban traditional incandescent light bulb sales from October 2009.

This was breathlessly announced by the arranged marriage of Labour’s Energy Minister David Parker and the Green Party’s Jeanette Fitzsimons. This will be "good" for the country by cutting greenhouse gas emissions and will be "good" for the kiwi battler by saving saving household power costs...

At first the media conformed to lazy journalism and cut and pasted the feel good government spin, however some media commentators decided to take time and think about the issue as the tide of public opinion changed rapidly. What started off as a warm and fuzzy announcement has turned into a public relations disaster that has demonstrated the "do as I say" culture of the present government.

This is a government whose language is riddled with words such as “should”, “must” and “ought”. The Nanny State always
knows best and we must be saved from ourselves. Mum and Dad middle New Zealand don't mind the government telling others what to do, but object being told what they have to do in their own household.

The main issue here is having a freedom of choice unilaterally removed. Believe it or not, most people aren't stupid. Some people may chose to save money and buy new energy efficient light bulbs, but being bullied into it by smug bureaucrats rankles.

In spite of the philosophical debate, the motel industry is frantically dumping ordinary incandescent light bulbs in favour of the new politically correct and
government subsidized energy efficient light bulbs. This is mainly being done for economic sustainability reasons as the benefit from energy savings can quickly recoup the initial capital cost. And one would think rightly so.... however not so fast!

Ian Wishart's "Investigate" magazine has unleashed a sensationalist article that claims that "new light bulbs (are) dangerous, toxic, could cost you thousands".

The article in "Investigate" should be judged with common sense and reason, however it makes interesting reading.

At a glance the article, "See No Evil" covers the following main points:

  • Mercury vapour US authorities don’t recommend use in children’s rooms or over carpeted areas because of toxic hazard
  • Damage to houses Despite NZ government assurances, the latest scientific tests in the US prove the mercury in one broken bulb can irreparably contaminate a carpet. In the US insurance companies are refusing to cover the cost of replacing carpets
  • Fire risk It is normal for CFL bulbs to physically burn up at the end of their natural life. Although rare, in some cases this has led to house fires
  • Toxic smoke The burnt plastic and gases emitted when lights burn out are carcinogenic
  • Lifespan Although many bulbs claim 6,000 hours (five years’ use) or greater, this is based on ideal laboratory conditions. Some bulbs have died within 12 months in household use
  • RF Interference Household CFLs are widely known to cause interference to wireless networks, electronic appliances, hot water cylinders and cordless phones
  • Power disruptions NZ Government briefing papers disclose major concerns that CFLs could cause regular widespread power outages because of a peculiar side-effect known as harmonic distortion
  • Cost of disposal Some US states now require homeowners to drive old CFL bulbs to a special recycling centre to avoid contaminating the environment.
The full article, can be read here:

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