Examining Environmental Issues and their Nexus with Science, Policy and Journalism
Plus News & Views from the Center for Environmental Journalism
Will the last one to leave please turn out the lightThe Australian Government has announced a major global warming initiative: Banning incandescent lightbulbs. This, in an election year, has led to the Opposition claiming their idea has been stolen, while the Greens have pointed out correctly that this is rearranging deckchairs on the Titanic. Public reaction has been positive and mixed. Responses include the self-interested: I can’t spring forth from my sporty 4-litre V8 4WD, unroll the bearskin rug, decant some red wine, fill the room with the sounds of cool jazz and enjoy a night of romance because… I can’t dim the lights! Quelle horreur! Then there is the spurious: The low-power lightbulbs may cause epileptic fits.The social impact: purchase is expensive for low-income earners.The practical: How does one replace fridge lights or fit big lightbulbs in small fittings.There is one other issue that I haven’t seen raised yet but one may be a fundamental. I will illustrate. For over a decade now, every light in my home, bar one, has been a low-energy flouro bulb. When I move I take them with me and re-install them and in each home I remove the fridge light and oven light. In that time, I have only had to replace two of these lightbulbs. Sounds great doesn’t it?There is a sting in the tail. For the last few decades people, like Vance Packard, have described how our society relies on consumption, planned obsolescence, and designed in product lifetimes. We have a throw-away society. Lightbulbs that last a decade or more present a production/consumption problem. If low-power flouro becomes the standard lightbulb, manufacturers must find a method by which these lights have the lifetime and failure rates of incandescents, or price them higher to offset their longevity. Manufacturing these lightbulb types is more energy and resource intensive than making incandescent bulbs. Factor this in (and the energy used for importation by sea), as well as the problem of disposal, and the initiative looks less bold and… well… a little more like a deckchair.Jon S.Hobart, Tasmania.
I sell light bulbs for a living and agree with a lot of what you're saying here. If you live in a cold climate, the energy isn't wasted with incandescents because you have to use energy to heat your house anyway so it's not like the heat is lost into the void of space. I've also had a lot of trouble fitting even the smaller compact fluorescents into certain fixtures and those that are small enough to fit are much less bright than incandescent light bulbs. I think I'll stick with what works.
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