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  • The Government’s Light Bulb Ban Is Just Plain Destructive

    The economic theory of “creative destruction” is important when understanding the value innovation has on long-term economic growth.

    Popularized by Austrian economist Joseph Schumpeter, the theory says the short and long-term benefits of entrepreneurial activity and competition will far outweigh the short-term losses caused by a new product replacing an old one. Audiotape makers may lose their jobs to the makers of compact discs, who may lose their jobs to the digital age.

    When it occurs organically, it’s a beautiful process that begets economic progress and benefits the consumer. When forced on businesses and consumers by our government, it does far more harm than good. And that’s exactly what’s occurring with the federally mandated incandescent light bulb ban.

    In 2007, Congress passed an energy bill that placed stringent efficiency requirements on incandescent bulbs in an attempt to phase them out beginning in 2012 and replace them with more expensive but more energy-efficient bulbs, the most popular being compact fluorescent bulbs (CFLs). Politicians used a distorted view of creative destruction mixed with global warming concerns to sell the regulation. They said it would create jobs, save consumers money, and reduce greenhouse gas emissions. But what’s really happened?

    Politicians, as they typically do, fail to see the unintended consequences of their legislative agendas. When it comes to CFLs, for example, the exposure to mercury vapor is dangerous if the bulbs are broken. Hospitals and medical charities warn that CFL bulbs cause migraines and epilepsy attacks. Other critics also point out that CFLs do not work well in colder temperatures and thus will force Americans to use more heat. CFLs do not work well with dimmer switches, and the lifespan of the bulb diminishes when turned off and on frequently.

    The latest attack on compact fluorescents is jobs. The Washington Post recently ran a story on General Electric having to close its major incandescent factory in Winchester, Virginia—a factory that employed 200 people. And the jobs that will likely be replacing those will be in China, where the United States gets much of its CFL bulbs. The process of making CFLs is labor intensive, and labor in China is comparatively much cheaper.

    As a result, Representatives Joe Barton (R–TX), Michael Burgess (R–TX) and Marsha Blackburn (R–TN) introduced the BULB Act last week, which would repeal Subtitle B of Title III of the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007—the phase-out of the incandescent bulb. Blackburn said, “Washington banned a perfectly good product and fired hard-working Americans based on little more than their own whim and the silly notion that they know better than the American consumer. Now, hundreds more Americans are looking for work while assembly lines in China are churning out fluorescent bulbs for the U.S. market.”

    To be clear, this is not Schumpeter’s model of creative destruction; it’s economic ignorance. If consumers really wanted to buy fluorescents rather than cheaper incandescent light bulbs, they would purchase them without a government ban. And if China produced those fluorescents, cheap imports mean businesses will find better productive uses for labor in the U.S. That’s the organic nature of creative destruction, but in this case, a mix of special-interest politics and concern that energy use in the U.S. is producing too much greenhouse gas emissions resulted in needless regulations and mandates. Rather than an innovation valued in the marketplace, consumers are forced to accept a product they do not want.

    Posted in Economics [slideshow_deploy]

    17 Responses to The Government’s Light Bulb Ban Is Just Plain Destructive

    1. Bob, MN says:

      The CFL bulbs also don't last even close to nearly as long as what was told. Such a horrible product.

    2. KC, IL says:

      Yes because it's much more "environmentally safe" to force us all to use light bulbs containing mercury… SMH.

      I'm going to the store today and stocking up on all the normal light bulbs I can find. Come 2020, I'll still be using regular old incandescent bulbs. Take that leftist government!

    3. David McClurkin, Ohi says:

      Ohio's General Assembly will be voting soon on whether to place Thomas Edison as representing Ohio's best in the National Statuary Hall in Washington. Now, when visiting the awesome place, we can mention that Edison didn't just claim the light bulb as an invention, but that he was first to invent a structure for American businesses that could succeed only so long as people ignored its weaknesses.

      Maybe the destruction was not so creative, but Ohio will soon have a marble monument to his failure. Perhaps the ultimate irony will be the illumination of the Hall by 2014 with compact fluorescents – from China.

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    5. JLH, ID says:

      Tried one of those CFLs last winter in our light post. Much to my surprise at the time, when these bulbs get cold (and it get really cold here), they don't come on. They will eventually come on again, however when the temperature warms up a bit (usually in the daytime when you don't need it.) This was one actually made for outdoors. Needless to say, I plan on stocking up on regular incandescent bulbs every chance I get.

    6. HawkWatcher, Mi. says:

      We no longer have a representative government in Washington. Instead, we suffer to the whims of the do-gooders, the beneficent ones who trash the principles of freedom. Throw the bums out!

    7. Corey, Leavenworth, says:

      I've tried the new mercury filled bulbs I quickly went back to the old ones flourecent isn't bright enough for me. Who asked the federal government to babysit them. I know right from wrong, I don't need or want anyone making such decisions for me. GOVERNMENT OFFICIALS LEAVE MY FREEDOM OF CHOICE ALONE

    8. Phil Galasso, Wilkes says:

      I tried the CFL bulbs and got rid of them. While much has been made of the mercury vapor in these bulbs (all fluorescent lamps contain it), there is another, more serious hazard: fire. All fluorescent bulbs require a ballast, which provides a high voltage to start the bulb, then limit the current flowing through it as the gas begins to conduct electricity. The ballast in a CFL is an electronic circuit board in the plastic base. As the bulb ages, the ballast begins to draw more current and it runs hotter. Eventually, the ballast may catch fire, igniting the plastic housing and, possibly, your house! Using a CFL bulb with a dimmer switch will also cause a fire, as it causes the ballast to overheat.

      My other concern is, that as General Electric closes an incandescent bulb plant in Virginia that employed thousands of Americans, our politicians have fed more of our jobs to China. Chinese products are notorious for poor quality control. After all, China is the country that gave us toxic toothpaste (remember the diethylene glycol that was being passed off as harmless glycerin?), poison pet food (wheat gluten adulterated with melamine, which causes kidney failure), and toys coated with lead paint.

      Let's send our senators and congressmen to China instead.

    9. Buck Thesing, Bonita says:

      Questions for your elected representatives. What will my Christmas tree look like with tiny CFL bulbs? Will they come in colors? Will traffic lights still operate in the winter? Will we still be able to illuminate dangerous traffic intersections in the winter? Will our automotive headlights work in the winter? Will we have to get a special recycle bucket for CFL disposal?

    10. Alex, USA says:

      Buck, traffic lights and others use LCD, not CFL lights. I vote for the LCD's. MUCH better illumination, no ballast, no mercury, cool to the touch and brighter light.

      Where did we get LCD's? Reverse-engineered alien technology from the crashes (Roswell, Peru, Sweden, Mexico, Russia, etc.) Nope. You won't hear about that from our government either. Check the now recently released documents from France, Sweden and the UK. It's doubtful OUR government will EVER tell us the truth. (Watch the full press conference called "Disclosure Project" on YouTube or google "The Day After Roswell" to hear what's really going on out there.)

      We haven't needed fossil fuel for over 60 years, either.

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    17. Mike L. in Altoona says:

      Try reality. CFL bulbs have less than 2 mg of mercury per bulb. They are not "filled" with mercury. In fact they have 20 to 100 time LESS mercury than a typical Florescent tube used all over the world without alarm. Also, with the use of coal as the most common form of electricity generation in the US, an incandescent bulb will use enough power over it's life time to release much more mercury in the air than is contained in a typical CFL bulb. (burning coal releases mercury as a byproduct). Another reality check. CFL bulbs have come down dramatically in price. Yet ANOTHER reality check, this bill is NOT a ban. It is an energy efficiency goal. The bulb manufacturing companies can still sell incandescent bulbs if they want to. The bill was also written and cosponsored by the GOP and signed by President Bush in 2007.

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