Lighten Up


The Boston Globe recently ran a front-page story about people who are hoarding incandescent light bulbs in anticipation of a coming federal restriction on the sale of Edison’s most important invention. Count me among the hoarders. I’m not ready yet for my close-up on reality TV, but I have managed to lay in a small stockpile of my preferred lighting provisions.

I’m pro-choice when it comes to lighting. I believe in a homeowner’s right to control his own light fixtures. Keep illumination safe and legal. Get your environment off my filament!

I guess the bright idea behind forcing people to use the supposedly more efficient compact fluorescent (CFL) bulbs is to save the planet. I have a hard time accepting the premise that making me use a CFL bulb will reverse global climate change, especially when China and India are building carbon-belching coal plants like they were going out of style (which they are, but only in the Western Hemisphere).

As writer P.J. O’Rourke brilliantly summed it up, “There are 1.3 billion people in China, and they all want a Buick.” China and India aren’t fretting about Climate Change when millions of their people have needs far more basic than a Buick. China can pump tons of coal carbon into the atmosphere, but I can’t choose to buy a 100-watt light bulb in the United States of America?

Call me a capitalist running dog, but I still believe that if you make a better product, people will voluntarily buy it and will probably even be willing to pay more for it. You don’t need the federal government to force people to purchase a superior product.

Under the coming new era of enlightened Prohibition, will we see lighting speakeasies where people will gather after dark to read by the familiar warm, bright light of incandescent bulbs?

“What’s the password, bub?”

“Thomas Alva.”

“OK, pal. You’re in.”

Will there be light bulb bootleggers selling incandescent contraband out of the back of trucks?
Selling Obamacare - July 22, 2009

“Whaddaya need, buddy?”

“Gimme a case.”


“Better make it 75s.”

“Here ya go, kid. Pay Louie.”

Some federal regulations are necessary to protect consumers. But the coming light bulb law takes choice away from consumers and offers no discernable benefit.

When I start seeing curly light bulbs in the background during presidential press conferences, maybe I’ll re-think my position. But until then, if incandescent lighting is good enough for the chandelier in the White House Briefing Room, it’s good enough for the one in my dining room.

Meanwhile, until they vanish from store shelves, my weekly shopping list will continue to include a four-pack of good old-fashioned incandescent light bulbs.

[This column originally appeared in the August 25, 2011 Wakefield Daily Item.]

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One Response to “Lighten Up”

  1. 1 lighthouse

    Agreed Mark….

    Apart from affecting people’s product choice,
    the actual switchover savings are not that great anyway =
    less than 1% of overall energy use, and 1-2% grid electricity is saved,
    as shown by USA Dept of Energy EU statistics and other official information
    with alternative and much more meaningful ways to save energy in
    generation, distribution or consumption.

    If the CFLs were good enough, whatever the price, people would buy them
    voluntarily, as they do with other expensive alternative products
    “Expensive to buy but cheap in the long run”?
    Think of Energizer battery bunny commercials, washing up liquid commercials etc – proper marketing, rather than subsidised
    handouts, or bans on the alternatives.
    More on CFL handout schemes, and admitted manufacturer profit motives,
    with references and copies of documentation

    Light bulbs don’t burn coal or release CO2.
    Power plants might!
    If there’s a problem – deal with the problem,
    rather than a token ban on simple safe light bulbs that people
    obviously like to use.

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