Unless you live in California, you may not be aware that the 100- watt light bulb is being phased out; which started Jan. 1 of 2011. From the California Energy Commission article about the phasing out of the 100 watt bulb (the "standard" referenced to below is the Energy Independence and Security Act signed in 2007):
The standard, passed by Congress and signed by President George W. Bush, becomes effective nationwide January 1, 2012. California has enacted the federal standards one year earlier to avoid the sale of 10.5 million inefficient 100-watt bulbs in 2011 which would cost consumers $35.6 million in unnecessarily higher electricity bills (Source: PG&E Case Study). By reducing energy consumption the standard will reduce air pollution from the burning of fossil fuels in power plants while producing the same quality of light as traditional incandescent bulbs.
The important thing to note is that this isn't a ban on incandescent bulbs, only bulbs that use more that 72 watts. You can still get a 72 watt halogen incandescent that will put out the same amount of light as a 100 watt incandescent!
But this is just the beginning. In 2012, this standard will go into effect for all states. From an Associated Press article on the new standard:
The act requires new bulbs to use 25 to 30 percent less energy beginning in 2012 nationally — starting with the 100-watt bulb. By 2014, other incandescent bulbs, including the 75-, 60- and 40-watt, will also be phased out across the country.Some specialty bulbs, however, will continue to be available. Consumers will still be able to get smaller lights such as yellow bug lights and aquarium bulbs.
When I first heard about the ban, I thought it was on all incandescents, and I wasn't sure if I would support it, only because I thought CFL and LED bulbs can still improve and come down in cost. But seeing as it is only on bulbs that use more than 72 watts, and there are many options 72 watts and under (including incandescent) that put out the same amount of light as a 100 watt incandescent, I think this is a great idea that will help improve air quality and save people money. While I generally support free market principles in regard to letting people make their own decisions, I've discovered that when it comes to energy, the free market has two things going against it:
- Since externalities aren't normally accounted for when it comes to fossil-fuel energy production, the public doesn't pay the true cost of energy.
- Most people are just clueless when it comes to energy. As soon as you mention "watts" to most people, their eyes immediately glaze over and they do the exact opposite of what you are trying to convince them to do, just because they don't like being confused...even if it costs them way more money in the long run.
Because the free market is pretty bad for accounting for pollution and its effects (out of sight, out of mind), I think standards like those recently enacted in California and enacted next year in the rest of the U.S. are vital to our clean energy future. What do you think?