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Category — Lightbulb regulation (CFL vs. Incandescent)

“Battle of the Bulb” (Peltier finds CFL mercury emissions equal to that of power plants)

[Ed. note: Robert Peltier, editor of POWER magazine, has insightful commentary in his 'Speaking of Power' op-ed series. MasterResource reprints his op-ed below with permission.]

“What happens to the millions of used CFLs that are tossed out in the trash each year? Chances are a large percentage are broken by users at home or are broken when compressed in the trash truck or compacted in a landfill. Regardless, the mercury contained in the bulbs is released to the environment.”

“My research found, much to my surprise, that both emissions—from [power plant] stack gas or broken compact fluorescent lighbulbs (CFL)—produce about the same magnitude of mercury release.”

- Robert Peltier, “Battle of the Bulb,” POWER, February 2012, p. 6.

President George W. Bush signed the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007 with the words: “New technologies will help usher in a better quality of life for our citizens.”

One stipulation of that law required an increase in the efficiency of newly manufactured lightbulbs, starting with 100-watt incandescent bulbs in 2012. Additional requirements affect 75-watt incandescent bulbs in 2013 and 60- and 40-watt incandescent bulbs in 2014.

The law did not ban the use of incandescent lights, as commonly believed, but it did prohibit the production or importation of bulbs that fail to meet the new efficiency standards after the cut-off date.

That law became effective January 1; however, the budget bill passed by Congress late last year does not allow the Department of Energy to enforce the lightbulb provision until September 30. The legislation that won overwhelming approval in 2007 has evolved into a cause célèbre this election year.

The real problem with this law, and the focus of the public’s ire, concerns the disposal cost of these new bulbs, not so much the efficiency standard per se. It is an environmental problem, in other words. [Read more →]

March 7, 2012   10 Comments