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Sep. 09, 2011

C U in Hell, CFLs

by Neil Wagner

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Let’s hear it for energy efficiency! It reduces climate-warming CO2 emissions from power generation. It makes the replacement of highly productive fossil fuels with alternative energy sources a little less daunting. And it got a boost from 2007’s Energy Independence and Security Act, which increases efficiency standards for light bulbs, phasing out incandescents come January.

I call energy efficient bulbs an important, developing technology for our fight against climate change. That sets me apart slightly from critics who call them low quality, life-threatening $50 bulbs that are being forced down our throats by government regulation that should be overturned. Skeptics also berate the government for turning its back on the incandescent-loving dictates of the free market’s invisible hand.

But, in fact, only the most expensive bulbs are $50. I know from personal experience that good-quality CFLs can be had for a comparable price to incandescents. Their light is good. They last a LONG time. I admit I shopped around a lot to find brands I liked, and that I do buy a slightly higher wattage than the manufacturer recommends as a replacement. Their use is still a big win in most cases.

And while the naysayers’ concerns about the Mercury found in CFLs are not without merit, I don’t recall a hue and cry about the multitude of fluorescent bulbs that have been ubiquitous in our society for well over half a century. But, to the critics, being told what to do is bad, and being told to do something green is VERY bad. The “eco-stink” of being turned green against their will has some people very motivated to denounce CFLs.

We’re dealing with a climate crisis. We will face tough choices and sacrifice. Some CFLs hesitate a second before they produce light. Annoying? Yes. A debilitating hardship? No. While we can’t yet attribute recent dramatic weather extremes to climate change, they’re great illustrations of how our “new normal” will look as global warming continues. I’m putting myself on the record as not liking floods, droughts, snowstorms, tornadoes and heat waves. There — I said it.

The whole regulation debate is summed up by FactCheck.org
CFL FAQs from GE. OK?
EPA guidelines for cleaning up a mercury spill. It’s a bit… involved
Read how Al Gore’s Nobel Prize magically turned the honor into a discredited joke

CAN’T GET ENOUGH WHAT ON EARTH?

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Interview: Katie Kline, Communications Officer at Ecological Society of America interviewed me via Skype for the ESA’s Ecotone blog. Read and hear it here.

Video: Bebbo and Kito were featured in one of Jim Parks’ terrific Today’s Green Minute episodes. See the video! Learn more about it.

About Neil Wagner

Neil Wagner's What on Earth? comic strip uses humor to discuss global warming.

The views expressed are those of the author and are not necessarily those of Science Friday.

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