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December 27, 2010

California, Where The Lights Went Out First

Apparently the theme of the day here is government overregulation (see this post below). I'm seeing a lot of chatter today about the coming demise of incandescent lightbulbs in California and it reminds me of a scene in Alien 3, as things tend to do, when the luckless prisoners realize they lack the basics of modern life. "Nothing much works here," whines a proto-corpse. Ripley snarks back: "Do we have the capacity to make fire? Most humans have enjoyed that privilege since the stone age."

Well, California is banning a staple of human civilization for 130 years: the incandescent lightbulb. Starting on January 1, it will be illegal to sell 100-watt incandescent lightbulbs in California. In the following years, 75-watt, 60-watt and 40-watt bulbs will also be banned. Instead, consumers will have to use expensive halogen bulbs or toxic compact flourescent lightbulbs.

The CFL movement is rooted in the idea that they last longer, uses 28 percent less energy and provide the same amount of light as Thomas Edison's incandescent invention.

But there are problems with CFLs that might make you want to buy, or choose, an incandescent light bulb. A six pack of incandescent bulbs runs about $5 where CFLs cost about $3 each. CFLs contain toxic mercury and require special disposal.

Popular Mechanics magazine found that CFLs commonly fail because they are installed in inappropriate lighting fixtures. They can also wear out prematurely because they are turned on and off frequently or experience excessive vibration or impact.

The results are predictable. First, there will be a short-term black market in lightbulbs, I kid you not. Individuals will bring lightbulbs with them when they return from other states. California will no doubt respond by banning their importation and the highway patrol can start checking returning vehicles for them like the fruits and vegetables checkpoint on the way back from Vegas.

Second, twenty years from now the enviroweenies that set us up for this in the first place will be pissing their pants and causing a great stink about all the mercury poisoning. Guaranteed. And, shockingly, it will turn out that converting to CFLs didn't actually save much energy anyway.

Don't be too smug about this taking place in California, though. A nation-wide phase-out of incandescent lightbulbs will begin in 2012, courtesy of a law signed by President Bush in 2007. California is just ahead of the curve.

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posted by Gabriel Malor at 11:03 AM

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