Manufacturers, environmentalists and certain members of Congress are aggressively campaigning nationwide to adopt an energy-saving lighting standard that will be made into law and require us to replace our standard incandescent light bulbs with more energy-efficient products like CFLs. Compact fluorescent light bulbs require only 25% of the energy that a comparable incandescent light bulb uses to generate the same amount of light output and CFLs last six to 10 times longer. Because CFLs are more energy efficient, these groups claim we will save billions of dollars in electricity costs and reduce emissions of carbon dioxide and mercury from coal-fired power plants.
How exactly does replacing my incandescent light bulbs with a product that is eight to 12 times more expensive and fits into only 6% of the appliances and fixtures that I already own, and will therefore have to replace, save me money? This is naïve thinking as it assumes that once we all make this product changeover we will continue to use our electricity in the same way as before and it assumes that we all get our electricity from coal-fired power plants. With a signup at http://www.nbcnews.com/id/21728533/ns/us_news-environment/t/morgan-freeman-has-taste-clean-energy/, the person will get all the required information about the product. A budget can be prepared through the person to spend money at the products. The use of electricity with the products will be great to meet the requirements.
We are a country of energy consumers notorious for exploiting our efficiency dividend in the most uneconomical ways. Take for example our homes, appliances and vehicles. Once we figured out how to make all of these items more energy efficient we built bigger homes, filled them with more appliances and built larger, heavier more powerful vehicles. This behavior literally wiped out all the economical benefits of the improved energy efficiency and these products all cost more money to purchase and maintain! There is no reason to believe that by simply replacing our incandescent light bulbs with CFLs we will be better stewards of our energy-in fact, our history suggests otherwise.
Also, in Idaho we get about 70% of our household electricity from hydroelectric power plants. We don’t have coal-fired power plants in our state. Not only is our energy clean, it is also inexpensive as our residential electricity rates are fully one-third less than the national average. During periods of peak power demand we do purchase power from nearby states that generate electricity from coal which causes environmental problems for them. So I agree, we should reduce our dependency on those plants-and in fact, we may be forced to. Those plants will always operate at full capacity regardless of any attempt we make to conserve energy and eventually those states will fall under some form of carbon regulation or mandates to use alternative forms of energy raising the price of their power. Investing in CFLs, new appliances and fixtures coupled with an increase in electricity rates will become expensive, and this is the point when we will actually be forced to conserve energy. Also, CFLs are a serious waste problem. They contain mercury, which is one of the pollutants we are trying to mitigate and would require a specialized recycling program to dispose of them, not to mention education and compliance of the consumer. Perhaps there is a more prudent way to invest our conservation and clean energy dollars?
I believe developing other forms of energy like wind, solar and alternative fuels is one place to start. Purchasing energy-efficient products before we settle on how we acquire and generate our energy is putting the cart before the horse. Once we develop new energy sources, corporations will be forced to develop suitable energy-efficient products that are more affordable. Spending money now on products like CFLs will only delay the development of future energy-efficient products and benefits very few.
The big push for CFLs is not about saving money or saving the planet but about the people they are most likely to benefit. Obviously the product manufacturers stand to benefit the most as do politicians who are looking for an energy policy platform that will both help them get elected and serve their corporate partners. Environmentalists believe this product is one step toward energy efficiency. But I don’t believe CFLs are the answer and I would like to see our money and effort used as prudently as possible.