February 6, 2009
Regarding ‘MEP goes on defensive over light bulb ban‘:
First of all: What is easily forgotten is that this is a ban on a safe, popular product. We are not talking about banning lead paint or fireworks here.
Around 9 out of every 10 lights purchased in every European country are of this kind, according to the European Commission’s own research. This is what people want to use.
Ordinary light bulbs and halogens have a unique light quality, different from other lights.
Please note that most incandescents, including halogens, are in the banning proposal, contrary to what it says in your article. Consult the December 8 Ecodesign technical report itself:
“All non-clear incandescents to be banned, only some lower wattage clear ones surviving.”
Old people have used light bulbs for years and are familiar and comfortable with their warm bright light quality.
The concerns about the mercury content of CFL lights are legitimate. Mercury released by power stations, as mentioned in your article, is not an excuse. The yarn keeps getting repeated that power stations give out more mercury by using light bulbs than what a fluorescent light contains, typically 4mg of mercury.
If that were true, perhaps there might be a desire to protest about it, rather than just to use it as an excuse to ban bulbs. As it happens, that is an old North American argument relating to untreated emissions.
Importantly, it also assumed that all power was coal-derived (it is about 1/3 in the UK, for example, 1/5 in Ireland, and of course substantially less in many countries).
Mercury released from coal power has for a long time been treatable by using wet scrubbers (chemical, not human, I hasten to add), and more recently with cheap injection and photochemical techniques too.
Coal gasification has existed for a long time as well (since the 1980s in California, at Cool Water).
Light bulbs are really cheap heat bulbs that ‘waste’ light: 95% of their energy is heat. The more right the opponents of light bulbs are, the more wrong they are! Research from the University of Toronto (2007) and elsewhere has shown that cheap light bulbs in ordinary use can be more economical than fluorescent ‘energy saving’ lights if room heating is welcome, because less ordinary heating is needed.
A half-covered light bulb near the ceiling may not seem like much. However, as sticking your hand well above a heater will show you, room heat rises towards the ceiling (convection) and spreads downwards from there. 20 100W bulbs can be compared to a 2kW heater.
Light bulbs – unlike cars – do not give out any gases. Banning them doesn’t solve anything.
The idea of constantly cutting down on electricity use means we could all go and live in caves to save zillions of euros and megatons of gas. Savings and emissions arguments can be wrong for many reasons, too many to take up here.
Instead, the problem of emissions itself should be dealt with. That needs money, but taxation provides money. Taxation can, for example, be imposed on electrical products according to their efficiency rating, like on cars, but with VAT changes so that ‘green’, A-rated products are cheaper than today.
Governments would still make money, since people still like inefficient products (they have big attractions, otherwise no-one would buy them). In a way it is like paying for deposits and recycling: you can use inefficient products, but have to pay for dealing with emissions.
It gives consumers freedom, governments make money in these bad economic times that they would not make with a ban, and the manufacture of ‘green’ products is stimulated on the market without clumsy bans or industry subsidies.
For example: 2 billion light bulbs are sold annually in the EU (lighting industry data 2007). While they are light-with-heat efficient (and could be rated as such), they are a finance minister’s dream: cheap and ubiquitous with a reasonable turnover. Even a large tax leaves them cheap: providing many billions of euros in coming years of easy money for European Governments in these bad economic times.
Real income, unlike what a ban gives to governments. And that’s just light bulbs.
As I point put on my website, there are many ways to deal with the emissions problem itself.
And why should households in virtually emission-free France or Sweden, or for that matter in largely emission-free Finland or Austria, have their product choices banned?
Why should the ever-increasing number of emission-free households have their choices banned?
There is going to be panic with a ban, extensive hoarding working against emission savings, cross-border and internet purchases, and a lot of bad feeling, not least when it’s seen to be so unnecessary.
Those interested can read a full account of electricity, light bulbs, savings and emissions on Ceolas.net.
Dr. Peter Thornes
Ceolas.netAuthor : Andreas