The How Many Legislators Does It Take To Change A Lightbulb Act

Hooray California!

As screwed up as the real estate market is in this state, and as hard as it is to afford to live here, things like this make me flat out proud to be a Californian.

Thanks to my wife I have a few of those in my house now. It’s dark as hell around here nowadays.

You have to buy the right lightbulbs…I have some newer CF bulbs that are just as bright and white as a medium incandescent. Good stuff.

But I’m opposed to the law.

Is the bill proposing that ALL bulbs in the state be changed, or just those that the state purchases and uses for it’s own purposes? If it’s the former, I’m ambivalent about it, if it’s the latter, I’m all for it.

These kinds of bulbs kick ass. Ours take a little while to warm up, like when you first turn them on they are really dim but then within 20s or so they are super bright, white light and emit no discernible heat.

Looking at other articles, it seems the idea is to ban the sale of incandescent bulbs in the state by 2012. Which seems like an utterly good idea. Didn’t realize that incandescents are 95% inefficient! (And dangerous, because they get so hot! Fluorescents you can almost touch with bare fingers even after they’ve been on for a long time. LED bulbs will be cool to the touch at all times, most likely.)

I hope it passes!

Maybe that’s it. One of mine is in a room I rarely visit so I mostly just turn on the light, grumble, and then leave. Oh, it’s on a dimmer switch too, and that’s pretty awful. I pretty much have to keep it dialed up to 11.

Done all my lightbulbs here, it was this bit that swung the decision:

I certainly hope there’s a companion bill to deal with recycling the fluorescent bulbs once they become mandatory. Mercury is fairly nasty and I imagine 42m Californians using nothing but fluorescents adds up to a lot of it.

I love compact fluorescent bulbs because once you install them you never have to change them. Seems to me that I move out of my apartment before the lights expire.

I’d love to see the actual calculations.

We use them in our house, not because we think they’ll have any significant net positive effect on the environment, but because in the long run they are less expensive (energy use and lifetime.)

However, we do have a couple of rooms in which we use the “real daylight” incandescents, in which having light as close to natural is important, and I’d be pissed if some state bureaucrat told me I wasn’t allowed to use them anymore.

The last time I tried a compact fluorescent bulb (admittedly, ~8 years ago), I was unimpressed. It had that flickery fluorescent feel to it that drives me nuts. The light produced was also, I think, a different, harsher spectrum than normal light.

He presents a problem here - consumers lack the economic information to make informed light bulb decisions, but then (IIUC), presents the wrong solution - the paternalistic solution. I think you should buy light bulb A, so I will ban light bulb B. The better solution is to fasciliate informed consumer decision - make manufacturers print estimate annual/lifetime costs on the bulb packaging.

Works for refrigerators, works for cars (mileage estimates), why not for bulbs?

Also, and again relying on my possibly outdated knowledge - the two lightbulb types (incandescent and fluorescent) are far from perfect substitutes for each other. I don’t think fluorescents area available in nearly as many size and shape configurations, for one.

Hm, this is a good point. The worst problem with fluorescents is that they don’t dim. At all. Hopefully LED bulbs will fix even that problem, though they’re still a ways away… but this California action will hugely accelerate that. I could live without dimming in our house if it saved that much energy, until LEDs come online.

It’s the former.

The thing about this that chaffs my ass is that this is something that’s not best handled by legislation. What if someone develops an incandescent technology that uses half the energy and lasts twice as long as fluorescents? What if someone has a specific usage where incandescents are required? What if fluorescent bulbs skyrocket in price? Laws are by definition unflexible and slow to change, it’s the same reason you don’t pass a balanced budget law, you just balance the damned budget.

Also, I just love this bit:

Sacramento lobbyist V. John White, who represents a number of environmental groups, said he has switched to compact fluorescents where he can in his apartment. But there are particular lamps that are hard to fit.

Clearly, light bulbs can make a big, big difference,'' White said. We need to embed this into the public consciousness the way recycling has been.‘’ That said, he has not read Levine’s bill and suspects that new lobbyists are being hired right now to kill it.

Yeah… just like he’s being hired to keep it alive.

Try them again, they’ve fixed that. I used to feel the same way. Now, it’s totally a nonissue.

He presents a problem here - consumers lack the economic information to make informed light bulb decisions, but then (IIUC), presents the wrong solution - the paternalistic solution. I think you should buy light bulb A, so I will ban light bulb B. The better solution is to fasciliate informed consumer decision - make manufacturers print estimate annual/lifetime costs on the bulb packaging.

Works for refrigerators, works for cars (mileage estimates), why not for bulbs?

Actually, it doesn’t work for cars. Minimum federal mileage standards exist for a reason. If it were cheaper to build a horribly fuel-inefficient car, lots of people would buy it even if they paid more in gas. There are many people who are really bad at computing total cost of ownership, and the social costs incurred by the many bad decisions made by those people can often be high enough to warrant government enforcement of a higher standard.

Seems to me incandescents are another good example of this, which is why I support this law. The lack of sizes and lack of dimmability are problems that can rapidly be fixed given the consumer demand once a law like this happens, which is another good reason for government action in this case… it can strongly motivate the market.

I knew by including cars and EPA estimates I would get challenged. Even with foreknowledge of the comparitive mileage of different cars, individuals sometimes choose guzzlers.

But that’s why I like the labeling approach (provide knowledge about costs, but don’t ban certain choices).

There are lots of cases where it makes sense to choose a lower mileage vehicle over a higher mileage vehicle. If you’re doing a lot of hauling for instance, and need the power. And consumers should be free to make that choice, but in an informed manner.

Now, if you’re saying that, given all that information, there is still a problem that too many consumers are choosing guzzlers, then I think you’re framing it wrong.

Why is it a problem that they’re choosing guzzlers? Is it because guzzlers carry hidden costs imposed on society (pollution, global warming, and/or political dependence on undesirable foreign regimes…)? I’d tend to agree with all of those. But the best way to reduce national gas consumption by, say 15%, is not to mandate a floor on mileage that is 15% higher than the current floor. Rather, it is (IMO, obviously), to adjust the price of gasoline (via taxes or whatever) high enough so that consumers CHOOSE to reduce gas usage by 15%. Consumers can choose the best way to achieve this themselves - higher mileage cars, more carpooling, living closer to work, etc.

Similarly, if California decides that there is a core problem that people are using too much electricity, and that this in and of itself is problematic (power plant pollution, global warming, etc.), then again, the better solution is market driven - raise the cost of electricity to reflect those external concerns. Some consumers will choose to reduce electricity by buying fluorescents, others by turning their thermostat down/up, or whatever.

It will be interesting to see what the gremlin of unintended consequences does with this one.

If the ding dongs out in CA absolutely HAVE to do this then it would probably be better to just tax the heck out of incandescents. Put a 200% tax on the things and then people will buy the CFs because they’re the same price but they last longer.

Although that’s probably a bad idea too.

I can just picture the black market now.

People making runs to Nevada for illegal light bulbs.

Psst, buddy, wanna buy a light bulb?