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The Left: Stepping on the Consumer

An interesting, and mostly unsurprising report [1] from the New York Times this morning.  Indeed, the only thing surprising about it is that it comes from the New York Times. Here’s some of it:

SAN FRANCISCO — It sounds like such a simple thing to do: buy some new light bulbs, screw them in, save the planet.

But a lot of people these days are finding the new compact fluorescent bulbs [2] anything but simple. Consumers who are trying them say they sometimes fail to work, or wear out early. At best, people discover that using the bulbs requires learning a long list of dos and don’ts.

Take the case of Karen Zuercher and her husband, in San Francisco. Inspired by watching the movie “An Inconvenient Truth,” they decided to swap out nearly every incandescent bulb in their home for energy-saving compact fluorescents. Instead of having a satisfying green moment, however, they wound up coping with a mess.

“Here’s my sad collection of bulbs that didn’t work,” Ms. Zuercher said the other day as she pulled a cardboard box containing defunct bulbs from her laundry shelf.

One of the 16 Feit Electric bulbs the Zuerchers bought at Costco did not work at all, they said, and three others died within hours. The bulbs were supposed to burn for 10,000 hours, meaning they should have lasted for years in normal use. “It’s irritating,” Ms. Zuercher said.

Compact fluorescent [3]

A compact fluorescent bulb

Irritation seems to be rising as more consumers try compact fluorescent bulbs, which now occupy 11 percent of the nation’s eligible sockets, with 330 million bulbs sold every year. Consumers are posting vociferous complaints on the Internet after trying the bulbs and finding them lacking.

Bulb makers and promoters say the overall quality of today’s compact fluorescents is high. But they also concede that it is difficult to prevent some problem bulbs from slipping through.

Experts say the quality problems are compounded by poor package instructions. Using the bulbs incorrectly, like screwing low-end bulbs into fixtures where heat is prone to build up, can greatly shorten their lives.

Some experts who study the issue blame the government for the quality problems, saying an intensive federal push to lower the price essentially backfired by encouraging manufacturers to use cheap components.

“In the pursuit of the holy grail, we stepped on the consumer,” said Michael Siminovitch, director of a lighting center at the University of California, Davis.

Well, gee, it’s not like we haven’t been saying this all along, is it?

In fairness, I have a couple of these things, there’s two of them sitting over my desk right now.  Departing sockets in my basement.  The two when the basement have been burning literally for years without interruption save the odd power failure.  The ones over my desk, similarly have not been turned off in years.  Mostly this is a function of soft lighting for when we’re not in the room, because of the cats.

We are finding however that the ones they get turned on and off regularly are the ones that fail regularly.

A PAR38 light [4]

A PAR38 light

Further, we’re finding that the fluorescent replacements(actually just CFL’s in a PAR38 package) that we bought to replace the standard PAR38’s we were using … garage lights don’t work well at all in the cold .  They take forever to warm up and come to full brightness.  This is particularly problematic when you’ve got them set up on motion sensors to deter tresspassers.

Outlawing the regular incandescent bulbs as some states and indeed the Federal government have been contemplating doing even absent the question of whether not the government should be doing such things, is at least premature.

There’s another factor here, though.  Consider the last line in what I quoted of the Times story :

“In the pursuit of the holy grail, we stepped on the consumer,”

It seems to me, that there’s an awful lot of that going on in terms of energy use, these days, across the board.  In each case the consumer is being stepped on in the name of attaining someone’s version of the ‘holy grail”.

In terms of fuel, we have stepped on the consumer by a telling him know we can’t drill for domestic oil.  No you can’t have the size of car or truck you need to do the job you want to do.  You have to cram you and your family and all their stuff into a ‘car’ that wouldn’t have been a serious contender at a go-cart track a few years ago. Or better, you’ll be crammed into busses and trains. No, we don’t care if nobody wants to ride them. You’re going to pay $5.00 a gallon if we have to tax at the rate of $4.00 a gallon .   And so on.

Americans as never before are finding themselves demonized by their own government if they don’t fall into greenie lockstep as consumers. our government is in pursuit of their version of the holy grail, and we’re the ones getting stepped on.  The question arises, then; why are they still our government?  Aren’t they supposed to be working for or interests and not their pie in the sky schemes?