CFLs and governance

July 8, 2009

I never thought a quick post concerning a single burned out compact fluorescent light(CFL) would elicit so much interest and so many comments.  I wrote a technical follow-up post (which I have not published) after I measured the irradiance of a 15 Watt CFL and a 65 Watt incandescent that it was supposed to replace using a NIST traceable spectroradiometer. That post was full of graphs and numbers, etc.  But I have come to realize that the great emotional investment that people from both sides put into this issue is not technical – but something more fundamental.  The real issue is about governance and coercion.

The CFL issue is a metaphor for the  entire global warming issue.

If the advantages of CFLs as put forth by commenters to the previous post  are so great, then 90% of the people will eventually adopt them by their own choice.  I have.  But what will it harm if the other 10% do not?  The amount of energy consumed by residential lighting by 10% of the people in the United states represents only 0.1% of the total energy usage in this country. (See the solution to question #8 in this energy quiz to see how I came to the 0.1% number.)  Is this 0.1% so important that we are willing to throw away our freedom to achieve it?

If you are worried about CO2 (I am not) then you need to understand that this 0.1% of US energy usage translates into about 0.025% of yearly CO2 emissions.  This is virtually unmeasurable.

Those supporting a government ban on incandescent lights do so with an almost religious zealotry.  They tout the advantages of CFL and downplay the disadvantages.  If they are so zealous and willing to go to such lengths for something as simple as taking away people’s choice of light bulb, how far will they go for more weightier issues?

We see a much more profound version of the same attitude in the larger issue of global warming, where obvious flaws in the evidence supporting the global warming theory are denied beyond reason for some misguided vision of  greater good.  For recent examples of the this global warming myopia, see exchanges here, here, and here.

For those who are more interested in the charts and graphs: I will get some interesting data concerning CFLs posted in the near future.


  1. I am stockpiling incandescent bulbs. I cannot see to work with CFL’s (been there, done that).

    If incandescents go away for good, I will have to work outside in daylight or not work at all.

  2. I use CFLs in my garage because I only have 3 fixtures there, each holding 3 bulbs. All are rated for 3ea 60W incandescent bulbs.

    Because of the heat generated by the ballast, I can’t really say what the heat equivalent of these bulbs are, but I have put 120w equivalent CFLs in so as to stay under the draw rating for the fixtures, but throw more light into the area. On this measure, they are a significant benefit. I get more light without installing more fixtures.

    But in many other locations, I can’t use them. They ruin timing switches, and aren’t designed to work with dimming switches. The ability to vary lighting is very important to me, so I’m stocked up on incandescents for those applications, because the CFLs won’t work.

  3. AGW is not about climate science. AGW uses climate science to sell a social program

  4. Please do post the information you have on irradiance. I am very interested in finding out what you have discovered.

    I use CFL’s extensively, but do not believe they provide an equivalent amount of light to their rating. However, I wonder whether this is just due to the color difference and the fact that I am not as used to the light.

    Would be great to see some actual numbers.


  5. RE
    “If the advantages of CFLs as put forth by commenters to the previous post are so great, then 90% of the people will eventually adopt them by their own choice. I have. But what will it harm if the other 10% do not”

    Exactly! A voice of sanity!

    Americans choose to buy ordinary light bulbs around 9 times out of 10.
    Banning what Americans want gives the supposed savings – no point in banning an impopular product!

    If new LED lights -or improved CFLs- are good,
    people will buy them – no need to ban ordinary light bulbs (little point).
    If they are not good, people will not buy them – no need to ban ordinary light bulbs (no point).
    The arrival of the transistor didn’t mean that more energy using radio tubes had to be banned… they were bought less anyway.

    All lights have their advantages
    The ordinary simple light bulb has for many people a pleasing appearance, it responds quickly with bright broad spectrum light, is easy to use with dimmers and other equipment, can come in small sizes, and has safely been used for over 100 years.

    100 W+ equivalent brightness is a particular issue – difficult and expensive with both fluorescents and LEDS – yet such incandescent bulbs are apparently first in line for banning (as in the EU)!

    There are also problems in achieving small size bright bulbs with fluorescents and LEDS, while halogens, related to ordinary bulbs are only slightly more efficient, and will gradually be phased out too given the proposed efficiency limits.

    In any case:
    Since when does America need to save on electricity?
    There is no energy shortage, there are plenty of local energy sources, Middle East oil is not used for electricity generation.
    Consumers pay for any power stations, just as they do for factories and shops generally.
    Certainly it is good to let people know how they can save energy and money – but why force them to do it?

    OK: Does a light bulb give out any gases?
    Power stations might not either:
    In Washington state practically all electricity is emission-free, while around half of it is in states like New York and California.
    Why should emission-free Seattle, New York and Los Angeles households there be denied the use of lighting they obviously want to use?
    Low emission households will increase everywhere, since emissions will be reduced anyway through the planned use of coal/gas processing technology or energy substitution.

    Also, the savings amounts can be questioned for many reasons:
    For a referenced list of reasons against light bulb bans, see
    http://www.ceolas.net/#li1ax onwards

  6. I hope you can help with a question. I have a very dark den. I had recessed lighting installed last Nov. The bulbs are starting to burn out now. I would like to replace them with the brightest floodlamp bulbs that are safe. The containers say to use 75 Watt R30 or 65 Watt BR30. I found at Home Depot GE Energy Smart 90 Watt bulbs that say they are equivalent to 23 Watt and will last 8000 hours -output 1200 lumens. Are these safe to use or what do you suggest for the brightest output. Thanks!

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