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Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Watch For It - The Mexican Incandescent Light Bulb Cartel

Via The Washington Post, a story about how 200 U.S. factory workers lost their jobs as part of the banning of incandesent light bulbs:
The last major GE factory making ordinary incandescent light bulbs in the United States is closing this month... The remaining 200 workers at the plant here will lose their jobs....
Don't blame Obama, the law at issue was passed in 2007:
What made the plant here vulnerable is, in part, a 2007 energy conservation measure passed by Congress that set standards essentially banning ordinary incandescents by 2014. The law will force millions of American households to switch to more efficient bulbs.

The resulting savings in energy and greenhouse-gas emissions are expected to be immense. But the move also had unintended consequences.

Rather than setting off a boom in the U.S. manufacture of replacement lights, the leading replacement lights are compact fluorescents, or CFLs, which are made almost entirely overseas, mostly in China.
Unintended consequences, again.

How long before Mexican incandescent light bulb cartels emerge, and the new threat to Arizona comes not from drug mules but light bulb smugglers?

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"Little-Noticed" is the New "Unexpected"

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  1. Frankly, I'm stocking up with a box every time I go to the hardware store. In 2016, you'll have to pay my price for a 60-watt incandescent.

    This is how government will provide for my retirement: selling contraband. Call it Antisocial Security if you must.

  2. How about the mercury in those bulbs? They require special disposal.

  3. First of all, don't buy GE products. The company is evil.

    Second of all, start buying incandescent light bulbs now and stock piling them. You think it's a joke? Do the Google-boogie and you'll see that people in Europe are already stock piling incandescent bulbs.

    For those of us in Texas, we will always have Mexico, where we've been traveling to purchase traditional gallons-per-flush toilets for years and where incandescent light bulbs will be a staple for a long time.

  4. "Unexpected" and "unprecedented".

  5. Don't blame Obama, the law at issue was passed in 2007

    Wait, wait... why can't we blame Obama for this? He voted for this bill.

    I don't know why so many people forget that Obama was a United States Senator for almost four years before becoming President. Well, actually, I know the answer: because he spent most of that time running for President. Anyway, Obama has a Senate voting record. If he wants to blame Bush for signing a bill into law, let's find out how he voted on it. If he wants to blame Bush or the Republicans for not passing a necessary law, well, why didn't you sponsor or vote for that bill, Senator Obama?

  6. Congress is just like bacon, there isn't anything it can't improve!

  7. "For those of us in Texas, we will always have Mexico, where we've been traveling to purchase traditional gallons-per-flush toilets for years and where incandescent light bulbs will be a staple for a long time."

    I'll also be stockpiling incandescent bulbs. I've grown accustomed to their warm, orange radiance, and my family just loves it when ceiling lights burn out. It's one of our greatest excitements in life to gather the family 'round the step ladder, unscrew the bug-filled light fixture, and screw in the new bulb.

    I shudder at the thought of switching to daylight-mimicking, energy-saving, power bill-reducing, never-have-to-be-changing LED light bulbs made in America by GE. All this hassle just because of the externalized cost of the coal-fired power plants powering my energy-hungry orangle-glowing bulb?

    These Democrats always want to force regulation on us, but this is 'Merica, and my family will not be suppressed. Thirty years ago, we decided to stockpile leaded gasoline in a 10,000 gallon, single-walled tank out back. We figured the aquifer could handle a little bit of taint, so why spring for the pricier tank?

    We've removed all the catalytic converters from our cars. We leave our televisions on all the time, because it's a hassle to wait for them to warm-up. And we heat our home with whale oil.

  8. James, nice sarc snark.

    Nevertheless, the more efficient AND more toxic fluorescents are problematic.

    And believe it or not, there are times where the main goal of the bulb is to provide HEAT, not light. I've got an egg incubator designed that way, for example. I've also seen them used to prevent freezing of water in various applications. The LED and fluorescents are inadequate then.

    And believe it or not, there are parts of the country where water conservation isn't an important issue...like New England. Better to have toilets that work.

    And there isn't anything wrong with a single walled tank, so long as you don't bury the darn thing so that you can't tell when it leaks. Dumbass.

    Big Brother doesn't always know what's best for you, and even when he knows what is bad, he often won't come up with the best solution. He's got so many lobbyiests and cronies, er, I mean constituents to satisfy when he writes that legislation. Greenmail, so to speak.

  9. "Nevertheless, the more efficient AND more toxic fluorescents are problematic"

    I stipulate that the concentrated mercury in CFLs is a problem. With that said, it's not a huge problem, because:

    a) Light bulbs rarely shatter
    b) CFLs specifically are much more difficult to shatter than incandescent bulbs

    Over the life of the bulb, incandescent bulbs produce more mercury pollution, because they use more power, which is usually produced by burning coal (which also releases many other heavy metals, including radioactive elements like uranium).

    Many types of specialized bulbs will still be available for heating applications, albeit at a higher price point.

    I think the stockpiling of incandescent bulbs is partly related to a misunderstanding of what is being banned. It's a pretty narrow ban on inefficient, non-specialized incandescent bulbs.

    In fact, there're several companies now producing incandescent bulbs which meet the energy efficiency guidelines. Yes, they cost five bucks, but these bulbs also last three times as long, and use 30% of the energy of a standard incandescent.

    The effect of the incandescent bans around the world have been to spur an enormous amount of new research into lighting. Even in the short time since the ban was announced, there have been several important innovations in LED and incandescent lighting. As is always the case, I'm sure the price of these things will come down as production ratchets up.

    We've got to do something about oil and coal dependency. There are trade offs, but they are worth it.

  10. 1. Concentrated mercury in CFL's certainly IS a problem because eventually that bulb will have to be disposed of, shattered or not.
    2. LED's sold by GE absolutely suck. There are good LED bulbs out there (look for Cree X-lamp) but GE does not make them.
    3. I have dimming light fixtures. Good luck finding a CFL that will dim. Yes, they are out there, but I will be stockpiling regular bulbs primarily for this reason.
    4. You get more support for your position by not being a jackass.

  11. James,

    Yes we will have to find alternatives to oil and coal, but when the time comes, ie it costs a fortune for oil and coal, enterprising individuals will come up with somenew. Its called a profit motive. Look it up.

  12. "a) Light bulbs rarely shatter
    b) CFLs specifically are much more difficult to shatter than incandescent bulbs"

    I stipulate that they all shatter once they enter the trash stream. And how many do you suppose hold up through earthquakes, hurricanes, tornados, tsunamis, house fires and the like? And unlike some poisons that degrade over time, mercury stays poisonous forever. It's elemental. Even many radioactive wastes become less deadly with time.

    "We've got to do something about oil and coal dependency. There are trade offs, but they are worth it. "

    Yes, James. It's spelled N-U-C-L-E-A-R.

    Anything less, and we'll need to shed a couple of hundred million from the population. I don't see any line of volunteers . (Well, except for one guy outside of the Discovery Channel Bldg.)

    Abundant energy has been what allows the US to outproduce the rest of the world, agriculturally and industrially. We can't compete and we can't feed ourselves based on muscle-power; Americans would make lousy serfs and draft animals.

    The high cost of nuclear is at least partially due to the endless roadblocks and deliberate delaying tactics created by the anti-nuclear opponents. But that's their strategy. Make startup so far into the future that the rate of return on the capital investment is too low to justify the plant. The time value of money is not a lesson lost on protesters.