Lightbulbs

Much of the UK media, and most of the people here to be fair, love to knock the EU. Perhaps this is sometimes justified, but many stories are exaggerated or re-spun to give it the greatest anti-EU, faceless bureaucrats* theme in order to allow us the feeling of righteous anger. Don’t ya just love it.

Recently I heard a piece on ‘Does 75 per cent of UK law come from Brussels?’ on Radio 4’s More or Less. Of course, this is very difficult if not impossible to answer reasonably. We could count the number of laws, the words used, or try to estimate each laws influence on people’s lives. As Tim Harford said, 40 laws on the regulation of car wheel sizes will be less important than a single law restricting the right to a trial by jury.

Often, though, the EU laws and regulations are misrepresented to the point of outright lie, and this is especially true where some people can make money out of the misinformation. Let’s take the humble lightbulb as an example. The news seems to be that incandescent bulbs are being banned, we’re all being forced to use the mini flourescent ones, so the EU is evil and we need to stock up now.

THE old-fashioned 100-watt incandescent lightbulb is to be phased out across the EU.

Countries will have to use energy-efficient compact fluorescent lamps instead. They use up to 80 per cent less electricity than standard bulbs and could cut a home’s annual energy bill by up to £37.

Experts say they will also help reduce carbon levels, curbing climate change. But some campaigners claim energy-saving bulbs may trigger migraines and worsen skin conditions. (The Sun)

I suppose the first line is true, but given that they’ve started with 100w bulbs I find this amusing, because I don’t think they get used much anyway. Most light fittings only take bulbs up to 60w, and we’ve got two years of 60w normal bulbs anyway. So there’s no need to panic… ‘Congratulations to anyone who can find 60 or 100W bulbs to hoard’ (contributer to BBC).

However, it’s the second line that is completely untrue. Old-style incandescent (i.e. a glowing filament) are going, but newer style incandescent lamps are perfectly fine (see  the EU document). So all the complaints about not being able to use dimmer switches, slow start-up times, or having a different quality of light are from people who misunderstand the law. Greenpeace would like to see these banned too, but given that the new bulbs can have a B or C rating, that won’t happen.

So given that we’ve got a little while of old-style bulbs yet, that we aren’t being forced to use the compact flourescents, and that the EU is encouraging new-style incandescents anyway, it seems this story is mainly being written in the dark.

—–

*Indeed, I’ve always loved the ‘faceless bureaucrat’ argument as it seems to be made by people who don’t understand how democracies work. Yes, the EU commission (bureaucrats) write the EU laws, and then the Parliament (an elected body) and the Council (the EU heads of state) have to pass them. But these laws can also be requested by the Parliament or the Council. And this is also how the UK system works… it’s the civil servants that write the laws as politicians don’t have time for the details. As far as I can tell, the usual is that a government policy commitment is given to civil servants to create green papers, white papers, and laws, and the ministers and eventually parliament sign them off (see this, or even Yes, Minister!). On occasion, for example where the police request new powers to deal with a particular problem, the initiative starts with the civil servants too. This looks much the same to me.

Advertisements

1 Comment

Filed under government, media, News, Politicians

One response to “Lightbulbs

  1. peterdub

    I agree that the EU is conveniently blamed,
    in the sense that national ministers have to agree to legislation and can conveniently point to Brussels for any unpopular measures…

    But the light bulb ban is in my view
    wrong, whatever resons given to support it

    Europeans (like Americans) choose to buy ordinary light bulbs around 9 times out of 10 (European Commission and light industry data 2007-8)
    Banning what people want gives the supposed savings – no point in banning an impopular product!

    If new LED lights – or improved CFLs etc – are good,
    people will buy them – no need to ban ordinary light bulbs (little point).
    If they are not good, people will not buy them – no need to ban ordinary light bulbs (no point).
    The arrival of the transistor didn’t mean that more energy using radio valves were banned… they were bought less anyway.

    The need to save energy?
    Advice is good and welcome, but bans are another matter…
    people -not politicians – pay for energy and how they wish to use it.
    There is no energy shortage – on the contrary, more and more renewable sources are being developed –
    and if there was an energy shortage, the price rise would lead to more demand for efficient products – no need to legislate for it.

    Supposed savings don’t hold up anyway, for many reasons:
    http://www.ceolas.net/#li13x
    onwards
    about CFL brightness, lifespan, power factor, lifecycle, heat effect of ordinary bulbs, and other referenced research

    Effect on Electricity Bills

    If energy use does indeed fall with light bulb and other proposed efficiency bans,
    electricity companies make less money,
    and they’ll simply push up the electricity bills to compensate
    (especially since power companies often have their own grids with little supply competition)
    Energy regulators can hardly deny any such cost covering exercise…
    – in which case money savings affected

    Conversely:
    Since energy efficiency in effect means cheaper energy,
    people simply leave appliances on more than before
    (in the case of CFLs they’re supposed to be left on more anyway, to avoid cutting down on their lifespan)
    – in which case energy savings affected, as also shown by recent Scottish and Cambridge research, as on the website.

    The only real “energy saving” going on is in the mental activity of politicians in Brussels.. London… Dublin…

    Emissions?
    Does a light bulb give out any gases?
    Power stations might not either:
    Why should emission-free households be denied the use of lighting they obviously want to use?
    Low emission households already dominate some regions, and will increase everywhere, since emissions will be reduced anyway through the planned use of coal/gas processing technology and/or energy substitution.

    Direct ways to deal with emissions (for all else they contain too, whatever about CO2):
    http://www.ceolas.net/#cc10x

    The Taxation alternative
    A ban on light bulbs is extraordinary, in being on a product safe to use.
    We are not talking about banning lead paint here.
    This is simply a ban to reduce electricity consumption….

    Even for those who remain pro-ban, taxation to reduce the consumption would be fairer and make more sense, also since governments can use the income to reduce emissions (home insulation schemes, renewable projects etc) more than any remaining product use causes such problems.

    A few dollars tax that reduces the current sales (EU like the USA 2 billion sales per annum, UK 250-300 million pa)
    raises future billions, and would retain consumer choice.
    It could also be revenue neutral, lowering any sales tax on efficient products.
    When sufficent low emission electricity delivery is in place, the ban can be lifted
    http://www.ceolas.net/LightBulbTax.html

    Taxation is itself unjustified, it is simply a better alternative for all concerned than bans.

    Of course an EU ban is underway, but in phases, supposedly with reviews in a couple of years time…

    maybe the debate in USA and Canada will be affected by the issues being raised over here?

Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s