Lightbulb apocalypse

Jeff vonKaenel

Locker rooms are incubators of stupid comments. Just last week, speaking in a voice loud enough to be heard by all who were showering and shaving, a gym acquaintance of mine complained about how the mean federal government is interfering with his right to buy regular lightbulbs. In an aggravated “Can you believe it?” voice, he said, “Things have gotten so bad, you can’t even buy whatever lightbulb you want.”

Over my lifetime, I have spent quite a bit of time in locker rooms, and I have heard some pretty stupid things said in them. And when you hear somebody say something stupid in a locker room, it is best to remember three things: 1. you are probably naked; 2. responding to stupid remarks often takes a fair amount of time; and 3. spending time in a small room, while naked, with somebody you just argued with, is usually unpleasant. Therefore, I have made it a general rule to stay silent in these situations.

Anyway, my beef is not with my gym acquaintance but with the idiotic congressmen and women who successfully delayed the phasing out of energy-wasting traditional lightbulbs. These bulbs use technology that is more than 125 years old, and only 10 percent of the energy is used to create light. The rest is wasted heat.

So, not only do you have to pay $25 a year in electricity costs to keep a 100-watt lightbulb on for six hours a day, but you then have to crank up your air conditioner to reduce the heat generated by these energy-sucking bulbs. This is nuts.

It is so crazy that 314 members of Congress and President George W. Bush saw the logic of phasing out these bulbs when they passed the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007.

But now there are those who disagree, such as Republican Rep. Michael Burgess of Texas, quoted in The New York Times explaining that “People got it when you said, ‘Well, why should the federal government restrict my freedom on what type of light I use?’”

Phasing out traditional lightbulbs will save 2.5 percent of the world’s energy. I can’t think of any other way to save this much energy with such little effort. Does Mr. Burgess have suggestions for better ways to save energy? I don’t think so.

If we could replace all traditional lightbubs with new energy-efficient bulbs; nationwide, we would save more than $10 billion a year. But no, it’s just more important to be free to choose a lightbulb.

Of course, here in California we implemented the new standard a year early, on January 1. And, according to Adam Gottlieb of the California Energy Commission, “There was no lightbulb apocalypse.”

Of course, Gottlieb hasn’t heard the complaints in the locker room. Look out: Lightbulb apocalypse, coming soon.

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About the Author

Jeff vonKaenel
Jeff vonKaenel is the president, CEO and majority owner of the News & Review newspapers in Sacramento, Chico and Reno.