Mike the Mad Biologist

Or something. A while ago, in “Michele Bachmann, Light Bulb Vigilantes, and the Dim Bulbs of the Tea Party“, I described the fear that the psychiatric wing of the Republican Party (and its dominant wing) has towards more energy efficient light bulbs. This is what appears to drive that fear:

On her way out, Dee Hogan of Nashua told me she would gladly vote for Bachmann. “I don’t appreciate that your next-door neighbor is going to start yelling at me, telling me to shut my lights off when they have that shut-your-lights-off thingee. I don’t want people in my face, telling me what to do.”

I really don’t understand this. Soundwaves encoding a phrase like energy efficient light bulb contact Hogan’s tympanic membrane. Then a neurological process that is kinda like cognition, except that it’s really, really fucking stupid, occurs and out pops….a posse of light bulb vigilantes.

This isn’t the kind of ‘centrist’ response one hears in response to a question the respondent is ashamed to answer “I don’t know” to–the ‘well, we just have to stay on the right track and see how it all plays out’ crapola. This is delusional paranoia worthy of the crazy guy on the subway.

Well, the House Republicans are indulging the Tea Party’s Republican base’s nightmares (italics mine):

The bill, sponsored by Texas Republican Joe Barton, would strip away any “federal, state or local requirement or standard regarding energy efficient lighting” that uses light bulbs containing mercury. In other words, all compact fluorescent bulbs.

Remember, in May, Barton, denied there was any “medical negative” from mercury emitted from coal power plants. Now he fancies himself a protector of the public from a vastly smaller source of potential mercury poisoning. The reality: There is an extremely small amount of mercury in CFL bulbs. Even after more than 8 hours of exposure to a broken bulb, mercury levels are equal to eating a 6 oz can of tuna.

But that’s not what this is really about.

Barton’s bill targets the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007, which increases the efficiency of incandescent light bulbs by 27% through 2014. It was a completely non-controversial bill that had bi-partisan support, was strongly supported by light bulb manufacturers (and still is) and was signed into law by George W. Bush.

“When this bill was passed, it was passed by people who knew how to make light bulbs,” says Randall Moorhead, vice president of government affairs at Philips, a leading light bulb producer. “Everyone supported it. And since then, it’s created more choice for consumers – we have two incandescent bulbs on the market that weren’t there before.”

But in an effort to score political points in the 2012 election cycle, Republican lawmakers have made patently false statements about the law – calling it a ban on incandescent light bulbs. Michigan Republican Fred Upton, who supported the law in 2007, is now back peddling and claiming that the efficiency standard is an example of “federal overreach.”

Lunacy? Check. Craveness? You betcha! This is why idiots like Bachmann, who has made this her signature issue (no, really), have to be shouted down. What with the Fox News echo chamber, the inherent lunacy of the Republican base (they’re comin’ to git yer light bulbs!), and the craven acquiescence of politicians and operative who do know better, this insanity has a way of becoming legislative reality.

And, yes, despite the gay Marxian Hitlerist Stalinism of this bill, you will still get your incandescent bulbs (italics mine):

“We support the notion that efficiency is a desirable thing, and this type of standard has been a part of our body politic for a long time,” says Moorhead of Philips. “The reality is, consumers will see no difference at all. The only difference they’ll see is lower energy bills because we’re creating more efficient incandescent bulbs.”

Moorhead explains the business case for the efficiency standard to Climate Progress:

The 2007 law set minimum efficiency level. That’s it. Everyone in the industry knew that it was set at a point that we could still make incandescent light bulbs. The industry never would have supported a law that would have banned a technology or prevented us from making a light with a certain kind of ambiance.

The reality is, the new incandescent lights were not being made because there was not an economic incentive to make them. And now Philips [and other manufacturers] makes two types that were not made before EISA. Today, under the efficiency standard, consumers have more choices, not less. They still can choose from more types of incandescent light bulbs that will be more efficient.

Because it’s not like more efficient light bulbs would be helpful at all:

The American Council on an Energy Efficient Economy says that the standards would eliminate the need to develop 30 new power plants – or about the electrical demand of Pennsylvania and Tennessee combined.

Only Republicans can make the current crop of Democrats look good…

Comments

  1. #1 James Claims
    July 10, 2011

    Only Republicans can make the current crop of Democrats look good…

    Here here! And only the current democrats can make Richard Nixon look like a good president with strong environmental standards! Current politics is in such a sad state of affairs; I feel like giving up when faced with people like Bachmann holding a mediocre chance of winning the nomination.

  2. #2 Rob Jase
    July 10, 2011

    Well you can’t return to the Dark Ages unless …

  3. #3 Todd Pollard
    July 10, 2011

    The Democrat’s think its OK to kill babys but they want to tell me what kind of light bulb to use. See anything wrong here? Stay out of my life, “president” obongo

  4. #4 samspade
    July 10, 2011

    Mike, I will believe what you’ve written when I can go to my local supermarket and buy one of these fantastic bulbs that has actually been manufactured in the U.S. When we have a high level of unemployment caused by industries being sent overseas who gives a damn about how wonderful these products are. I noticed that recently a large number of workers was laid off in a GE incandescent bulb plant. Why wasn’t this plant retooled to make your wonderful bulb? people like yourself who praise efficiency without giving any thought to the socioeconomic ramifications make me think you must be little nerd sociopaths.

  5. #5 Surgoshan
    July 10, 2011

    Saving people money? What a load of pinko commie horsecrap!

  6. #6 FSM_47
    July 10, 2011

    What part of just stay out of my frikkin life do the nanny-state whiny leftists no understand. It is time to start bitch-slapping some of these idiots.

  7. #7 Janice in Toronto
    July 10, 2011

    Someone please tell me Todd Pollard is a Poe.

  8. #8 Art
    July 10, 2011

    Why did GE move production to China? Taxes are too low here. Samspade @4 is quite enlightened to have pointed this out.

    http://www.dailykos.com/story/2011/06/18/986600/-Tax-increases-will-create-American-jobs

  9. #9 NJ
    July 10, 2011

    FSM_47 @ 6:

    What part of just stay out of my frikkin life do the nanny-state whiny leftists no understand. It is time to start bitch-slapping some of these idiots.

    Lessee, bill created in part by light-bulb manufacturers, passed in 2007 and signed by GW Bush.

    Yeah, bitch-slap them leftist companies like GE and nanny-statists like Bush!

    Oh, wait…

  10. #10 Drivebyposter
    July 10, 2011

    The Democrat’s think its OK to kill babys but they want to tell me what kind of light bulb to use. See anything wrong here? Stay out of my life, “president” obongo

    Just calling him “that fucking nigger” the way you want to.
    Pretending you aren’t racist is so passe.

    What part of just stay out of my frikkin life do the nanny-state whiny leftists no understand. It is time to start bitch-slapping some of these idiots.

    Translation: I am shitting my pants with anger over something I don’t understand and have never had interest in understanding!

  11. #11 Art
    July 10, 2011

    FSM_47@6 Come on down you casper milquetoast pansy-assed wanna-be tough guy. Let the ‘bitch-slapping’ begin. I’ll even give you the first shot. Let’s see how that works out for you.

    But here again you would have to turn off the right-wing talking points, put down the Doridoes and Mountain Dew, climb those terrible steep stairs up from the basement of your mommas house, and go without AC long enough to shift your corpulent, morbidly obese, lily-white ass my way. Sounds like work. So we both know it won’t happen.

  12. #12 Funkydebunker
    July 10, 2011

    Oh come on Art- just tell us how you REALLY feel!

  13. #13 Neil Bates
    July 10, 2011

    I think it would have been better to tax incandescents according to some wattage formula, since they are still less efficient than CFLs so why *not* make them less affordable, even if some are more efficient? (The more efficient ones would still be taxed less per lumen.) Now what motive will many people have to buy expensive CFLs?

    Also, it’s great we can still get icds for purposes like frequent switching, when you want heat for purposes, etc. But I don’t see the newer ones around, AFAIK/CT they are so far expensive and hard to come by. Well sure, the latter makes CFLs more competitive but will there be enough?

    In any case, the deception from many “ban” opponents is disgraceful. I guess they don’t care that this was signed under Bush, either (he, like Reagan the tax raiser, is way too liberal for them now …)

    Hey, FSM_47: how about this way of breaking down the “nanny State” for you con-servatives: no more government enforcing private contracts. Let the banksters and other rentiers have to go and throw people out in person, if they dare …
    But samspade at least raises a decent question, I’m not sure how it hashes out …

  14. #14 DaveD
    July 10, 2011

    Are these high-efficiency incandescent lamps on the market now, and generally available? I’d certainly buy them if I saw them. I’ve got a Home Depot right near my residence, and I’m in there fairly often. I see tons of CFLs, and I’m starting to see more LED lamps as well.

    The LEDs are still ferociously expensive, though. A 60W replacement is about $20, and it was $40 up until a few weeks ago. I bought one (for $40, alas — my timing stinks) and have found it to be very satisfactory in terms of performance. I have no idea how long it will last. It’s also remarkably heavy compared to a standard incandescent.

    I have lots of CFLs in my home, anywhere they seem to make sense. Unfortunately, if you turn them on and off frequently, their life expectancy plummets. Incandescents do much better in that case. I have a bunch of 25W incandescent globes in my bathrooms that are over 20 years old. They just don’t die.

  15. #15 Misaki
    July 10, 2011

    The easiest way to get people to conserve energy is to raise the cost of energy.

    The easiest way to raise the cost of energy is to reduce income inequality so all consumers conserve energy, not just the poorest ones.

    The easiest way to reduce income inequality is with a reduction in the average wage of full-time employees, with the option to retain the original wage when a permanent employee is working part-time, as described here: http://pastebin.com/Q86Zhgs9

  16. #16 Badger3k
    July 10, 2011

    I’m not sure if my experience is unusual or not, but the LED light bulbs that I bought lasted less than 6 months. Not sure why they stopped working, but the two that I was testing died at the same time. The light was great, but I expected a much longer lifespan. I may have gotten a bad shipment, or had some kind of surge that only affected those bulbs, or whatever. Disappointing, and I have yet to try another and see how long that lasts.

  17. #17 Tristan
    July 10, 2011

    @16: Quality of LEDs vary for sure, even from batch to batch. I’ve bought three lots of LED downlights off dealextreme (about 30 in total, mixed between 3W and 4W models). One batch was dodgy, and I lost four of them within a day (with one actually tripping off the circuit breaker). The remainder are still going strong >6 months later. At under 10 bucks each, and with the price of electricity here in Australia, I figure I still come out ahead.

  18. #18 Diana
    July 10, 2011

    I don’t understand the quote about mercury exposure: ” Even after more than 8 hours of exposure to a broken bulb, mercury levels are equal to eating a 6 oz can of tuna.”

    My concern is that I’ll inadequately clean up the mercury (say, after the bulb breaks in a carpeted room) and I’ll be exposed to the mercury in the broken bulb for years, not just 8 hours. (Or to put it another way, I would be more concerned about mercury in tuna if I ate a can every 8 hours.) I appreciate the environmental impact of coal, etc, but I have a baby and another one on the way — I need to watch out for them first and foremost. I’m waiting for cheap LEDs, and until then, I’m sticking with incandescents unless someone can convince me that broken CFLs are safe.

  19. #19 DaveD
    July 10, 2011

    Why? Do you make a habit of breaking CFLs? I’ve got lots of them, and the only one that ever broke was in a fixture that’s on the outside of my back porch. Never broken one in the house.

  20. #20 Diana
    July 10, 2011

    Yes. Our house has a number of ceiling fans which bind the bulbs somehow — sometimes the bulbs come out easy, sometimes they break. I think it is all in the wrist! :-) We’ve tried both normal 60 watt bulbs and special smaller bulbs meant for ceiling fans, and we have the same problem either way – the bulb breaks when we try to remove it, leaving the screw part in the fixture. Removing the screw part is hard enough. The procedure with CFLs — having to first evacuate the house (not easy in the winter), wait, and then clean up the mercury is just too much, particularly with kids to take care of. And again, I’m concerned I won’t be able to adequately clean up the mercury.

  21. #21 BrianX
    July 11, 2011

    Is there really even enough mercury in a CFL to worry about?

  22. #22 Diana
    July 11, 2011

    The extensive instructions at the following link are what upsets me: http://www.epa.gov/cfl/cflcleanup-detailed.html

    The steps are simply not compatible with taking care of young children by oneself. Cleaning up a light bulb should not be such a big deal, nor should it be necessary to ignore the EPA’s recommendations.

  23. #23 MacTurk
    July 11, 2011

    Paraphrase of the National Lightbulb Association(NLA);

    They have my incandescent light bulb when they prise it from my cold dead hand.

    Damm, now I am channeling Charlton Heston…time for a quick shower.

  24. #24 Wow
    July 11, 2011

    “The Democrat’s think its OK to kill babys”

    Nope. But Republicans will tell you you can’t decide what to you do with your body.

    “but they want to tell me what kind of light bulb to use.”

    Nope again. They’ll stop people making bulbs that are inefficient.

  25. #25 TTT
    July 11, 2011

    Diana is completely right that CFLs pose a real dilemma to the parents of young children, especially if you’d like to illuminate carpeted areas. I don’t think I’m clumsier than the average person, and I have certainly dropped and broken a few lightbulbs in my time. The moment you describe a cleanup procedure more time-consuming, frightening, and dangerous than “grab dustpan and garbage bag while telling the kids not to play on that side of the room” is the moment I stop listening.

    Environmentalists / progressives have got to start taking this perspective seriously, because frankly if you disagree with or belittle it you are simply *wrong* and every parent–regardless of their political orientation–will ignore you.

  26. #26 DaveD
    July 11, 2011

    It certainly can be an issue (mercury, I mean). I hope I didn’t come across as belittling Diana. If she’s got a significant breakage problem (or maybe a problem with sockets of dubious quality in her ceiling fan, or whatever the underlying problem is), then it’s real enough. And that’s a good reason not to use CFLs — or at least to not use them in that fixture. In my own home, I am happy to say that I haven’t had problems with installing or removing CFLs, other than one on the back porch — and that one isn’t a screw-in base. (It’s some sort of plug-in, and I can’t remove the damn thing. I may have to replace the whole fixture.)

    LEDs do have some serious advantages in this case — you don’t need to break out the hazmat suits if you break one. You may need to break out the Kleenex, just because the bulbs are so damn expensive you might want to cry, but at least you don’t have to sweat toxicity.

  27. #27 Nomen Nescio
    July 11, 2011

    The easiest way to get people to conserve energy is to raise the cost of energy.

    okaaay… sounds a little idealistic, doesn’t really take into account market inelasticity, but let’s roll with it…

    The easiest way to raise the cost of energy is to reduce income inequality so all consumers conserve energy, not just the poorest ones.

    …pretty darn cynical, that, but since reducing income inequality would be a good thing in and of itself, let’s leave be for the nonce the zillion other and better reasons to do it…

    The easiest way to reduce income inequality is with a reduction in the average wage of full-time employees

    …lolwut? whatever you’ve been smoking, quit. that would INCREASE income inequality, by leaving the topmost tier unaffected while growing the lower tiers dramatically. instant banana republic recipe; no thankyou, not even though this seems to be what we’re already getting anyway.

    funnily enough, banana republics aren’t noted for their conscientious energy frugality focuses.

  28. #28 Wow
    July 12, 2011

    “Diana is completely right that CFLs pose a real dilemma to the parents of young children, especially if you’d like to illuminate carpeted areas”

    Uhm, if the lightbulb is broken, you’re not illuminating the carpet any more. If you’re breaking bulbs, then you’re doing something wrong. Try not doing that.

    Please remember that burning coal exhausts mercury along with many other toxic substances, not to mention the crud that comes out of car exhausts. Where is the concern over that? Where’s the concern of a buggy for the child where the child is close to the ground and in the fug from the car exhausts? Where’s the concern that women push the child in the buggy out into the road FIRST?

    If the risks are so important, where are the complaints about the other bigger risks?

    “I don’t think I’m clumsier than the average person, and I have certainly dropped and broken a few lightbulbs in my time.”

    Yes, you are clumsier. I’ve not dropped one and if you had it should not have broken (carpet, remember).

    “if you disagree with or belittle it you are simply *wrong* and every parent–regardless of their political orientation–will ignore you.”

    Given they don’t care about intoxicating their children in the fumes from their cars, don’t care that obesity is rising partly because they DARE NOT let their children walk to school, I will ignore the parents who are fake-scared about CFLs because they’ve bought the idea that ANYTHING environmental or from the government is BAD.

  29. #29 TTT
    July 12, 2011

    “Wow,” for someone who cites coal plants and car exhaust, you seem to have no grasp of the difference between POINT-SOURCE and NON-POINT-SOURCE pollution. The entire complaint over CFL mercury is that parents of young children do not want to risk accidentally creating a POINT-SOURCE of pollution inside their own homes that could persist for years.

    They are right to fear that. If you disagree, you are wrong and you permanently mark your opinion as ill-informed, obtuse, and worthless, and you will deservingly lose on this issue.

  30. #30 Wow
    July 12, 2011

    “for someone who cites coal plants and car exhaust, you seem to have no grasp of the difference between POINT-SOURCE and NON-POINT-SOURCE pollution.”

    Nope, there is no evidence that this is the case.

    You may wish to bring a strawman out of such an argument to knock down, but it makes it a creation entirely of you.

    The entire complaint is that people want a REASON they can have against CFLs that isn’t the ridiculous “The government is wrong!!!!”.

    “They are right to fear that.”

    No, they are ridiculous to fear that.

    You see that car exhaust? That’s a point source.

    You know all that mercury dumped into the rivers that go into the seas and end up in our fish?

    That’s a point source.

    Yet in both cases, the “I WANNA DO WHATEVER I WANT!!!” baby crowd would be the ones stopped. They’d have to stop driving cars, change how they carry their child around, campaign against mercury dumping.

    This would be like being an ENVIRONMENTALIST!!

    Can’t have that!

  31. #31 Diana
    July 12, 2011

    Wow (comment #28), the last part of your comment suggested that this is about political ideology, but in my case at least, it most certainly isn’t: I’m a progressive, and I’ve merely bought the idea that information from the EPA is worthwhile.

    As for comparing mercury exposure from burning coal vs mercury exposure from a broken CFL, this is where I thought the science in scienceblogs might help. I don’t know the answer. My intuition is that mercury in the from coal will not be as dangerous to my children as mercury in their house from a broken CFL, in sufficient quantities that the EPA recommends evacuating, and recommends refraining from using a vacuum cleaner, etc (see the EPA link I provided above). And again, I’m really concerned about long-term exposure due to inadequate cleanup. But I don’t know the answers. I’m open to a scientific argument.

    Instead of discussing the science, you’re making a values-based argument. As for values, I care about other people’s children too, and I care about environment we all share, but for something like this, involving a neurotoxin, I’m going to unapologetically put my children first.

    And yes, accidents happen, adults drop the groceries, children break things, etc – this shouldn’t have to be explained or justified.

    Your other comments, about fumes from cars and about childhood obesity, strike me as completely irrelevant. I’d like to hear about the science!

  32. #32 Wow
    July 12, 2011

    Diana: “My concern is that I’ll inadequately clean up the mercury (say, after the bulb breaks in a carpeted room)”

    How are they breaking and contaminating your carpeted room?

    They aren’t.

    This means you’re making up scare stories.

    Why?

    If it’s not ideology, is it stupidity?

    “As for comparing mercury exposure from burning coal vs mercury exposure from a broken CFL”

    Yes, much worse from coal, but you don’t get to see it (or clean up). It wasn’t the only poisoning of your children going on, via actions you are or have enacted yourself.

    Where’s your concern for the child buggy?

    “My intuition is that mercury in the from coal will not be as dangerous to my children as mercury in their house from a broken CFL”

    And chances of your CFL breaking and dispersing mercury is pretty damn close to nil. 0% if you don’t deliberately sabotage it.

    The chances of a coal fired power station emitting mercury in vast quantities: 100%.

    You have to modify the severity by the chance of it happening.

    “And yes, accidents happen, adults drop the groceries, children break things, etc – this shouldn’t have to be explained or justified.”

    But you drop your groceries whilst still packed. Your CFL is packed in a carton that resists damage. It isn’t on your carpet. It’s easy to clean up (throw the bag away).

    And the bulb of an incandescent is far more dangerous if your children are in the habit of breaking lightbulbs. Sharp pointy death.

    “Your other comments, about fumes from cars and about childhood obesity, strike me as completely irrelevant.”

    Well, science doesn’t care if your children die.

    However, in the case of risks to your children, they’re EXTREMELY relevant.

    You just don’t want to do anything about them.

    Why? If you’re so worried about mercury in CFLs, why not car fumes?

    “I’d like to hear about the science!”

    The science is that your CFL bulb won’t break and spill mercury on your carpet unless you take a hammer to it.

  33. #33 TTT
    July 12, 2011

    Wow: You still don’t know what a point-source is. “What about all the coal plants? What about all the car exhaust?” is the exact opposite of a point-source. And “what about all the obesity?” is not even wrong.

    There is *ABSOLUTELY NOTHING* that any individual consumer or family can do to avoid receiving their own “share” of the non-point-source, ambient pollution from power plants and car exhaust. Homeless people don’t use a lot of energy, but they breathe the air too; should they expect to be immune to pollution?

    There is a greater mercury threat to the individual in that specific house, with a more intense dose sustained over a more prolonged period, from accidentally breaking a CFL and being unable to properly and immediately clean it up. And there is *perfect* control over that source by that individual, depending on their own decision to use or not use CFLs inside their home.

    Just admit that it’s not a great solution.

    Or, take your current approach a half-step further and come out and insult people for being “breeders”.

  34. #34 Wow
    July 13, 2011

    “You still don’t know what a point-source is.”

    Yes I do.

    “”What about all the coal plants? What about all the car exhaust?” is the exact opposite of a point-source.”

    So each car doesn’t emit noxious fumes, they only do it en-masse?

    It seems like the one not understanding a point source is you.

    “And “what about all the obesity?” is not even wrong.”

    Hmm, so you know better than the surgeon general:

    http://www.surgeongeneral.gov/topics/obesity/calltoaction/fact_adolescents.htm

    So no worries about kids getting diabetes but the opportunity to break open your CFL is a REAL worry… Yah. Not buying it.

    “There is *ABSOLUTELY NOTHING* that any individual consumer or family can do to avoid receiving their own “share” of the non-point-source”

    Yes they can.

    Reduce the use of coal power.

    “Homeless people don’t use a lot of energy, but they breathe the air too; should they expect to be immune to pollution?”

    They could do with all this straw, mind, couldn’t they?

    Are you saying that Diana is homeless?

    “There is a greater mercury threat to the individual in that specific house”

    No, because it’s sealed up in an air-tight package.

    “from accidentally breaking a CFL and being unable to properly and immediately clean it up.”

    The chance of which is 0%.

    “And there is *perfect* control over that source by that individual”

    Yup: stop breaking your CFL bulbs in the living room over the carpet.

    “Just admit that it’s not a great solution.”

    A solution to what? Diana’s hysterical fears over CFL mercury in the carpet? It’s a psychiatrist who will solve that problem.

    The problem of wasted electricity? It’s a great solution.

    The problem of wasted money? It’s a great solution.

    The problem of tackling AGW which is a far bigger problem for Diana’s kids than mercury even if Diana dances a jig on the bulbs rather than use them for illumination? It’s a great solution.

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