Light bulb lies

Whose bright idea was this? asks Daily Mail Reporter today. New ‘green’ light bulbs will cost you $50 EACH (and you’ll HAVE to buy them after 100-watt bulbs are banned)

How terrible! If, that is:

  1. You’re American. This article is about the upcoming phase-out of 100 W bulbs in the United States – 100 W light bulbs have been banned in Europe for nearly two years, and shockingly we’re not paying $50 (£30) per bulb.
  2. You light your house exclusively with 100 W bulbs.
  3. You refuse to buy the normal energy saving compact fluorescent light (CFL) bulb, which you can get for about £1, for some reason.
  4. You decide to buy the first of a new sort of light bulb – the LED light bulb – and in particular, you buy the smallest and brightest bulb available, which costs about $45 (£27) at the moment, and you buy it right away instead of waiting for the price to come down.

Better headline: One particular light bulb might cost $45 EACH at first (but you won’t have to buy them even if you’re American because they’re stupidly powerful and there are cheaper bulbs available which are just as bright)

Hmm, perhaps it’s a good thing I’m not a newspaper sub.

PS: Oh, and why is “green” in “scare quotes”?


  1. #1 by lighthouse on Wednesday, 18th May 2011 - 14:12 GMT+0100

    “100 W light bulbs have been banned in Europe for nearly two years, and shockingly we’re not paying $50 (£30) per bulb.”

    No, you are right about that, I agree that that article is sensationalist in tone

    I would say though that the ban on simple types of incandescents is wrong for many other reasons….
    freedom of choice,
    usage safety (known technology),
    cheap and popular,
    and there is no electricity shortage to deny paying customers what they want to use
    (and even less so in the future, with all the renewable and.
    low emission alternatives).

    Also the overall society energy savings are small, less than 1%,
    as from US Dept of Energy own figures, see below website,

    the ban also likely related to light bulb manufacturers having pushed for and
    indeed welcomed this ban on cheap unprofitable light bulbs
    ( with documentation and references).

    • #2 by knightofthedropdowntable on Thursday, 19th May 2011 - 15:12 GMT+0100

      Few things wrong with this comment. Firstly, the saving is not 1%, as each 100W-equivalent bulb uses 74W less for every second it is used. Say you use it for 5 hours a day on average through the year (6pm until 11pm), that’s 5 x 74 = 370 Wh per day or 0.37 kWh, and 0.37 x 365 = 135.05 kWh in a year. With commerical electricity prices currently between 9p and 10p per kWh and domestic even higher, you will save around £15 a year for each bulb, which only costs £7 on Wilko’s website and will last years. That’s significantly more than a 1% saving.

      Also, in the UK there is going to be a shortage of electricity in the next decade or so. A significant number of our large power stations, mostly coal-fired, are due to be closed around 2016, and thanks to a complete lack of long-term focus from the government we are in no state to replace them. We need to cut down on electricity and build some bigger connectors to Europe, or we might be facing some large blackouts in the years to come.

      • #3 by lighthouse on Thursday, 19th May 2011 - 16:01 GMT+0100

        1. Re savings
        The less than 1% energy savings, as seen on the website provided, apply to society energy use, not to consumer use.
        The details are here including EU -and British- institutional links:
        Much energy is consumed by industry etc,
        much energy is wasted in electricity generation and distribution.
        as also covered on the site.

        That said, consumer savings are also much less than supposed,
        and much less than your figures imply
        for many reasons, as institutionally referenced above,
        covering CFL brightness, lifespan, power factor and other issues
        as well as the misunderstood incandescent heat replacement effect.

        2. RE energy supply
        There are many new energy sources available in particular for electricity
        and including renewable and low emission varieties.
        The choice whether or not to use them is up to governments.
        Their “lack of long term focus” as you say,
        does not justify stopping paying consumers using what light bulbs they want,
        not justy given the overall small savings,
        but because improving the generating and grid distribution efficiency of existing power plants
        is much more relevant also in terms of the savings levels.

        Any energy/electricity shortage raises prices and reduces use anyway,
        including the increasing attraction of energy saving light bulbs and other energy saving appliances.
        Again therefore, no need to legislate for it.

        Even if none of the above was true,
        bulb taxation would still be a better option,
        cross financing cheaper energy saving alternatives and/or helping to finance renewable options.
        Light bulb Free Market/Regulation/Taxation alternatives are illustrated here:

        Energy efficiency is good:
        But product regulations are not the right way to achieve it,
        compared with the described alternatives to achieve it, on the website

        • #4 by knightofthedropdowntable on Friday, 20th May 2011 - 11:32 GMT+0100

          The website you link to seems to confuse it’s terms at times, and gives the impression that lighting consumption is much lower than it is by mixing up domestic lighting use with domestic use in total. After a quick read through, I think the savings it gives should be several times greater than it says. Even so, 1-2% of an entire country’s electricity supply is a massive amount of carbon not being emitted and money being saved.

          Also, the heating effect is interesting, but you can’t just claim taking the heating away is bad in all situations – we recently installed energy-efficient lightbulbs in a client’s cold store, where the waste heat from normal bulbs was a massive drain on their electricity. The waste heat might be useful in the winter, but is counter-productive in the summer, so I think it will mostly balance out to be a non-issue.

          You still seem to be missing my major point on #2 – there is not enough electricity (or rather, there won’t be in ~5-10 years time). There are many sources available for new power stations, but they cannot be built in time before some of the current ones have to be closed down. It’s not an issue of letting the customers buy what they want, it’s an issue of making sure there is enough for people to use, in a sense it’s kind of electricity rationing while we get through this shortage mess.

          I also believe you are exaggerating the effect of making power stations and distribution more efficient, as distribution wastes 7-8% of the UK’s supply depending where you are, so for an equivalent saving of 1-2% of the whole country’s supply they would need to cut distribution waste by a quarter or more.

  2. #5 by DanceColinDance on Sunday, 22nd May 2011 - 14:01 GMT+0100

    I’ve read your blog for a while now, but have never commented … I thought I would today though, and I’ll tell you why.

    I’m considering not reading it any more. Not because of the content, it’s a great blog … but because it gets me so f*cking annoyed!

    I don’t buy any newspapers any more, but reading your blog enrages me. It seems that tabloid media is one of the few areas in life where you can just outright sh*tting lie about something and get away with it scott-free! I think I’m a bit envious actually, I’d love to have a job where basically I got up on a morning and made stuff up!

    Anyway, rant over. I’ll try and not let it get me down! Keep up the good work!

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