The Politics of Light 2

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I [dis]agree with President Trump.

This is a lighting blog, not a political blog, correct?  Yes.  Unfortunately, light- like so many aspects of our lives- is being politicized for electoral advantage.

Recently President Trump’s administration repealed rules that would continue to require energy-efficient replacements for yesterday’s incandescent lamps.  In live speeches, Trump spoke strongly against the energy-efficient alternatives:

Energy efficient bulbs are “…many times more expensive than that old, incandescent light bulb that worked very well”

“The bulb that we’re being forced to use, number one, to me, most importantly, I always look orange.”

“And very importantly- I don’t know if you know this- they have warnings.  If it breaks it’s considered a hazardous waste site.  It’s gasses inside.”

And Energy Department spokeswoman Shaylyn Hynes said the rules “would increase the price…by almost 300%, leaving the cost burden to American consumers and businesses.”

So, why do I care?

Because these statements could just as well read “we’re going back to black and white televisions that worked well and don’t make me look orange.”

And because my pocket is being picked for short-term political gain.  As is yours.

First of all, I said I agreed with Trump.  On one statement: “It’s gasses inside.”

Compact Fluorescent bulbs have trace amounts of mercury inside, as do all fluorescent bulbs, and mercury is a known neurotoxin.  When they break, they should be cleaned up with wet paper towels to grab any mercury particles.  Trump is right about that.

From here on out, I take issue with every comment.  But let’s start with the one above, where President Trump points out the downsides of CFL bulbs.

First of all, I do not use Compact Fluorescent CFL’s anymore, and neither should you.  So lumping all energy efficient bulbs into a category of defunct CFL bulbs is grossly misleading.  There are no “gasses inside” to worry about if you just stop buying CFLs…which are of course harder and harder to find.  Last year’s light bulb buying post had exactly zero CFL bulbs on it.

Secondly, it has long been documented that the mercury used in a CFL bulb is less than the mercury emitted into the atmosphere by a power plant when you switch to incandescent.  In other words, if mercury concerns you, CFL is still a better choice than incandescent.

Thirdly, the mercury amount is so small that you would need to EAT several CFL bulbs to be exposed to the same amount as eating a single tuna fish sandwich.  That’s right- a tuna fish sandwich is more toxic than a CFL.

But we don’t use CFL bulbs, right?  So why is our President even talking about them?  Let’s look at the other statements.

Energy efficient bulbs are “…many times more expensive than that old, incandescent light bulb that worked very well.”

If we ignore CFLs and concentrate on LEDs- by far the most common energy-efficient bulb available- then we can compare costs.  Yes, President Trump is correct if he means that the purchase price of an LED is “many times more expensive than the old incandescent light bulb.”

A really good LED bulb can cost as much as $6.00.  In the good old days, an incandescent might cost $1.00.  That makes the LED a full six times as expensive, correct?  Yep.

Unless you plan to use the bulb.  Unless you plan to turn it on.

Then you have to look at the lifecycle cost of the bulb including energy usage.  With most LED’s saving 80% of the energy cost and lasting 25 times as long as an incandescent, it takes almost no time to recoup the costs.  In fact, most LED bulbs say right on the package how much money you will SAVE if you use it to replace “the old incandescent light bulb.”

When I first saw the 60W incandescent return to the shelves, I did the math and found they would cost me seven times as much as the LEDs I am using.  So, if I were to write President Trump’s speech, it would say that “…those energy efficient bulbs are many times less expensive than the old incandescent light bulbs that worked very well.”

“The bulb that we’re being forced to use, number one, to me, most importantly, I always look orange.”

I struggle with how to address this.  I have always assumed that the President could hire a decent lighting designer, but perhaps this is not the case.  Frankly, I could use any kind of light source to make him look orange.  Or green.  Or magenta.  The only light I know of that might make him look orange with any consistency are the High Pressure Sodium bulbs used in old streetlights.  No one is talking about them, they are not affected by the rules, and I doubt he has every spoken under HPS bulbs.  Energy efficient light bulbs make no one look orange unless, well, they are orange.  In fact, cheap energy efficient bulbs are more likely to make you look the opposite if orange.  I cannot find a reason for this statement other than comic intent, which is perhaps why he said it.

And Energy Department spokeswoman Shaylyn Hynes said the rules “would increase the price…by almost 300%, leaving the cost burden to American consumers and businesses.”

Ah, now we have the reason for this rollback.  If we go back to incandescent, the administration can say that it is saving Americans and American businesses money.  And saving us money means more votes.

This is where the argument completely falls apart.  Yes, as we saw above, incandescent light bulbs cost less to purchase.  But if we decide to actually use them:

  • Every incandescent bulb we buy will cost us much more to operate than a decent LED bulb.
  • Every incandescent bulb we buy will need replacing 25 times more often than a decent LED bulb.
  • Every incandescent bulb we buy will add to everyone else’s and require a dramatic increasing in energy production- by some estimates requiring 25 new power plants to be built just to make up the difference.

The ONLY Americans to gain anything financially from this policy will be those that profit from the construction of new power plants, those that import or make incandescent bulbs, or those re-elected as a result of the appearance of looking out for the American consumer.

The REST of us Americans will PAY MORE because of this policy.  Even those of us that still choose LEDs.  Because our neighbors might be tricked into buying incandescent and I doubt they will pay for the new power plant on their own.

Light is being used for short-term political gain.  We are being tricked by our President to pay more money for 100-year-old technology.  Imagine if we were told we needed to go back to black and white TV’s?  They don’t make ANYONE look orange.

So, no matter what President Trump says about the light bulb, buy quality LEDs.

Here’s to a brighter future….

One thought on “The Politics of Light 2

Add yours

  1. Well written, political without being political. Difficult to do. You left out a key piece of advice to his team however. Perhaps they could switch his “orange lighting” to green to resemble him to an alien, that would help explain things.

    Liked by 1 person

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