Be progressive: Ban the import of incandescent light bulbs

Today’s paper:

Government has called on Bermuda’s public to save energy in a bid to reduce the impact of inflation driven by rising oil prices after the inflation rate soared to a 19-year high of 4.8 percent.

Here’s a recurring thought:

According to a lab test conducted by Popular Mechanics, Compact Florescent Light bulbs “use about 70 percent less electricity than incandescent bulbs.”  

Has government considered a ban on incandescent bulbs as a means to promote energy savings Bermuda wide as has been done in Australia and California?

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9 thoughts on “Be progressive: Ban the import of incandescent light bulbs

  1. Hi Denis,
    Glad to see you posting again. I would totally support the banning of incadescent bulbs, but I reckon the way this would come about in practice would be to:
    (a) add the externality costs of the bulbs to their price, thus making them less ‘cheap’ than the current flourescent ones and using this money to subsidise flourescents – kind of like a pigovian tax.
    (b) phase out their importation over a 12 month period.
    My biggest worry with these sort of energy saving devices is what I call the half-fat cookie syndrome. People look at these cookies and decide that because they are half the fat they can consume twice the cookies. While these devices are no doubt a vital tool in reducing greenhouse emissions and the like, we really need to change our basic approach as well. Half fat cookies should not be eaten twice as much, it just renders the good points moot.
    Hope you don’t mind, I started a poll about this over at progressive minds, and cited this post as one of the inspirations.

  2. Hi Denis,
    I would agree with a ban on incandescent bulbs, and there’s actually been some movement here in the UK of late along those lines. I don’t think that doing this as some kind of inflation-busting move is a justification, mind, though the need for environment protection would, I think, be a justification. I’m usually against government intervention in various matters (a) because I think that people should be as free as possible; and(b) private enterprise and the free market of human behaviour generally works more effectively and more efficiently than government regulation and action. However, time and time again, it has been proven that environmental matters do require government intervention and regulation, because it is one of the few areas where the free market of human behaviour cannot be trusted.
    One caveat is that, if you’re going to ban incandescent light bulbs, you have to provide appropriate means to dispose of the long-life bulbs, as they contain mercury and cannot just be disposed as normal trash.

  3. Galt, one only needs to look at intensive pig farming in the US, chemical production in the US, Central and South America and heavy industry in Bangladesh to see that, without government intervention and regulation, private interests will engage in rampant pollution of the environment for its own profit.

  4. J Galt,
    Do you not remember all of the safety recalls for toys manufactured in China? It was only two months ago. As long as people think solely with their wallet (if you can even deign to call that thinking), companies will produce things as cheaply as they can, cutting as many environmental and safety corners as possible.
    Denis,
    You can’t ban all incandescents as fluorescents can’t work in all areas (sensor lights, dimmers, timers, etc). Yes, I know there are dimmable fluorescents, but most people wouldn’t take the time to read the package in the first place, and they are almost impossible to find. We have to work on education, which, ironically, since people are choosing with their wallet, means we need to point out that fluorescents will save them money. My bulbs (that can be) have been changed out already. Anyone else’s? More efficient air conditioning and water heating, along with insulation practices, would have far more effect in Bermuda than the bulbs.
    Loki,
    Bermuda already has adequate facilities for disposing of hazardous materials such as compact fluorescents. The problem (as always) is the public’s lack of knowledge about sorting hazardous materials so that they can be separated, or even what is hazardous. The flue gases at the incinerator are monitored constantly, but it was always designed to be mass-burn. That is, it can take all of the really nasty stuff without much damage, and not rely on people to separate things, because MOST DON’T.

  5. Renaissance Man,
    I have no doubt that Bermuda actually has adequate facilities for disposing of the long life bulbs, but we need a system for (a) educating the public that they can’t just throw them in the regular trash; and (b) weeding out such bulbs that do get into the general system.

  6. I wouldn’t consider this until BELCO can get its act together and deliver a steady voltage supply. I have tried CFL bulbs in my home in Warwick and saw the bulbs last only two or three months before blowing out! At $10-15 a pop, replacing them that often will surely outweigh the savings.
    This has become clearer to me since installing a UPS for my computers recently. The UPS kicks in a good five or six times a day when it detects spikes or drops in the voltage of the incoming supply.

  7. One problem that no-one seems to have considered. I’ve been changing most of my bulbs to flourescents as they burn out [the few I won’t change are actually in work areas – I don’t like the light the bulbs produce and it’s rough on the eyes]. However, I do have a couple of fixtures that will not accept the new bulbs – if you look they are generally longer than a standard bulb and simply will not fit – if I have to convert I have to replace those fixtures.
    There is also a debate about disposing of the new bulbs because of the mercury they contain.

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