As the curtain fell on 2013, the lights dimmed for a familiar object: the incandescent bulb.
Jan. 1 marked the final phase out of the traditional light bulb, the victim of government muscle flexed by corporate interests.
In 2007, Congress passed, and President Bush signed into law, an energy bill that included mandatory efficiency standards for most light bulbs. Those that failed to meet those standards would become illegal to make in the United States.
The first to go were conventional 100-watt bulbs in 2012, followed by 75 watts last year. By Wednesday morning, the last of the incandescents, the most popular 40- and 60-watt types, became contraband (to manufacture, not to own … at least not yet). Consumers are supposed to replace them with more energy-efficient compact fluorescent bulbs, or CFLs (those pigtail bulbs), LEDs and other newfangled models.
The newer technology costs more to purchase than the conventional bulbs, but are supposed to save consumers money over the life of the light-givers. That’s of little comfort for those who prefer the incandescent light to those of CFLs or LEDs, or who don’t want to deal with the mercury content of a CFL if the bulb shatters.
But Washington is removing that choice for most Americans, except for those with the prescience to stock up on incandescents before the supply dwindles (and the ones you see on the shelves right now reportedly are close to all that’s left of them). The Energy Department knows what’s best for you. And what’s best for corporate America.
As Timothy P. Carney, writing in The Washington Examiner, explains, the 2007 bulb standards were a result not just of meddlesome environmentalists who believed incandescents were bad for the planet, but also of lobbying by the largest light bulb manufacturers — General Electric, Sylvania and Philips.
The industry was looking for ways to increase profit margins on bulbs. Because incandescents are cheap to make, the companies couldn’t raise prices without inviting competitors to enter the market and undercut them. They were manufacturing CFLs and LEDs, but few people were buying them because they cost more than the incandescents.
Darn that free market.
So the Big Three of Bulbs got in bed with environmental groups to promote energy efficiency and turned to government to force the issue: pass legislation to get rid of those pesky, cheap conventional lights, making consumers buy the more expensive ones.
To be fair, incandescent technology isn’t being banned. There are more-efficient versions of the traditional bulb, such as halogens, that meet the federal standards. But again, they cost more than the old kind.
Over time, Americans may come to welcome their new light bulb overlords by realizing significant savings in their electricity bills. The Great Light Bulb Purge of 2014 will be a forgotten footnote, joining buggy whips and eight-track tapes in the dustbin of history.
The way the change was achieved, though, is yet another example of how big-government corporatism manipulates the market and ignores consumer demand, whether it’s for your own good or for a business’. Don’t confuse that with capitalism.
— From the Panama City News Herald