CFLs and governanceJuly 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.