2011-06-16 / Sam Bari

Let there be light

You can’t beat a system you can’t understand
By Sam Bari

As boring as it may be to report this, with so much as a modicum of good conscience, I cannot allow this subject to be cast aside unaddressed.

We are not – I repeat – we are not being forced to change the lighting systems in our homes to use those underpowered curly cue compact fluorescent bulbs that don’t shed enough light to read our electric bills. Legislation was never passed banning the use of incandescent light bulbs.

“Banning” is a very strong word. It implies that big government has stepped in and made the light bulb as Thomas Edison invented it, and as we have used it for years to illuminate our homes, illegal to own. This is another shining example of media manipulation of the facts.

We can thank Stuart Varney, of Fox News no less, for starting the media frenzy that has people across the country ready to bear arms in protest. When promoting his own show, Varney called Republican Congresswoman Marsha Blackburn a hero for trying to get rid of the “ban on incandescent light bulbs.”

In less than five seconds, Varney single-handedly destroyed any hint of credibility the media might have for reporting the facts correctly.

As a result of Varney’s nationally televised gaffe, newspapers, television stations and Internet news organizations went into hyperdrive either supporting or opposing federal legislation that was erroneously reported.

The truth is quite simple. George W. Bush, late in his second term, signed into law the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007. The following is the most important fact:

“The legislation requires light bulb manufacturers to improve the efficiency of incandescent bulbs by 25 percent. The details of the law dictate a phase-out of the manufacture of certain bulbs in their current incarnation, beginning with 100-watt bulbs in January of 2013.”

The legislation does not ban the use or manufacture of all incandescent bulbs, nor does it mandate the use of compact fluorescent versions. The new law requires that companies make some of their incandescent bulbs work more effi ciently to meet a schedule of rolling deadlines between 2012 and 2014.

Additionally, the law has many exemptions. Three-way bulbs, silver-bottomed bulbs, chandelier bulbs, refrigerator bulbs, and plant lights are all exempt, as are many others.

According to reports from the industry, several manufacturers are already making new versions of incandescent bulbs that have the same lighting quality as the bulbs we have been using for generations. However, the new models us 25 to 30 percent less energy. This allegedly saves the average household an estimated $100 per year. Multiply that by the number of houses in the country, and the energy reduction is enormous.

Osram Sylvania, a popular producer of incandescent light bulbs, already has a more efficient bulb on the market called the Sylvania SuperSaver that meets the new federal requirements. A 43-watt SuperSaver bulb puts out the light of a traditional 60-watt bulb. It’s not fluorescent. It is an incandescent bulb that looks and feels no different from the traditional bulbs that we have been lighting our homes with for years.

According to Anna Tinsley, a responsible journalist and friend who writes for the Fort Worth Star Telegram, misunderstanding of the federal legislation apparently inspired Texas lawmakers to pass a bill that allows Texans to skirt federal efforts to promote more efficient light bulbs.Tinsley wrote that the measure, sent to Texas Gov. Rick Perry for consideration, lets any incandescent light bulb manufactured in Texas, and sold in the state, avoid the authority of the federal government when the 2007 Energy Independence Act starts phasing out some incandescent light bulbs next year.

Not everyone agrees.

The Natural Resources Defense Council, a New York-based environmental group, is calling on Perry to veto the bill.

In our present-day politically charged environment, fanatics will grasp at any straw to support their self-serving interests. An example of this happened last week at Lightfair, an annual trade show for the lighting industry. Philips unveiled a winged LED bulb with a lifespan of 25,000 hours to sell for $40 to $50. A Fox News headline read: “As Government Bans Regular Light Bulbs, LED Replacements Will Cost $50 Each.”

Glen Beck, Rush Limbaugh and conservative bloggers around the country pounced on the story. Their folly resulted in retailers reporting the stockpiling and hording of light bulbs.

Misinformation is one of the biggest reasons we continue to live in a system that we cannot and probably never will understand.

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