Thursday, March 03, 2011

A Postscript to the Squiggly Tail

Coincidentally, the CFL light bulbs mentioned in the previous post, and their 19th century incandescent forebears, are the concern of new legislature prepared in the United States Congress.

One bill is a repeal of a section of the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007, which regulated manufacture and sale of the energy-efficient light bulbs. Its requirements for energy efficiency effectively phase out the incandescent bulbs by 2020.

What is the objection to this? Is it just nostalgia for the older bulbs? Revulsion for the oft-mentioned squiggly tail? Enter the Better Use of Light Bulbs Act, a new bill that seeks to block that repeal.

In a good piece of reporting by the Washington Independent, we get a clue as to why.

The real answer as to why the bill’s sponsors are itching to extend the shelf life of incandescent bulbs may not be so ideological. The U.S. Department of Energy estimates that in one year, replacing just one 60-watt incandescent bulb with an equivalent CFL results in $7 in energy savings (Microsoft Excel file). Other Department of Energy figures (PDF) state that the average U.S. household has 45 light bulbs across 30 separate fixtures and that there are 116,900,000 households in the country. This means there are 5.26 billion light bulbs across the United States. At present, CFLs hover at a market share just under 30 percent. If that were to go up to 100 percent as a result of the EISA mandate, power companies would stand to lose almost $26 billion in revenue every single year.

It's not mysterious or eccentric at all, really. This is simply the Republican Party, one of only two dominant political parties permitted to govern in the United States -- so, half of our duopoly -- working for its traditional constituency: large business sectors, in this case the energy industry.


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