Video: An ode to the incandescent light bulb

posted at 9:52 pm on December 2, 2011 by Tina Korbe

Reason.tv’s musical maestro Remy yesterday released this spoof of Puff Daddy’s 1997 tribute to the Notorious B.I.G. Filling in for B.I.G.: the incandescent light bulb, which Remy expects to miss terribly as soon as the federal government’s ban on the bulb takes complete effect in January.

So do I, Remy, so do I.

Countdown to the effective date of the phaseout: T-29 days. Stockpile ‘em now while you can. Maybe, as Fox anchor John Stossel suggested in a recent statement, the light bulb ban seems unimportant because it’s a “small” overreach. But I’d argue the very smallness and specificity of the ban is what makes it so potently representative of the worst excesses of the federal government. Nothing is so small or so personal as to go unregulated by an ever-expanding, avaricious administrative state. The government won’t even scruple to stay out of our homes, which are our personal dominions, our castles.

The key, not-to-be-forgotten takeaways of the ban: (1) Don’t trust any ol’ Republican to automatically and invariably stand for smaller government. I’m a G.W. fan, but the guy signed this ban into law. No excuse for it. And not even the present Republican-controlled House managed to pass a repeal bill. (2) Unintended consequences are a virtual given of legislation composed by non-experts. The law seeks to replace incandescent light bulbs with compact fluorescents — but, when a CFL breaks, mercury meets air … and the cleanup procedure is anything but uncomplicated. (3) As Remy sings, “If that new light bulb is so amazing, then why don’t people just go buy that light bulb?”

That last is the real point: At heart, this is about personal choice and freedom, the essence of the American Dream. Either the representatives we elect trust us to know what’s best for us or they don’t. If they don’t, we need to elect different representatives.


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Anybody want to make a bet that all of the incandescent bulbs on Capitol Hill stay incandescent? No way are our masters going to be bound by the same laws and regulations that bind/control the rest of the people.

Solaratov on December 3, 2011 at 11:56 AM

The backwardness of banning a safe, non-toxic product so that people will be forced to buy a toxic one simply because it uses less electricity is mind boggling.

Count to 10 on December 3, 2011 at 12:00 PM

Anybody want to make a bet that all of the incandescent bulbs on Capitol Hill stay incandescent? No way are our masters going to be bound by the same laws and regulations that bind/control the rest of the people.

Solaratov on December 3, 2011 at 11:56 AM

They are not bound by any other laws imposed on the masses, so why this one.

Excellent point.

iurockhead on December 3, 2011 at 12:23 PM

Just because someone is pro-life and loves this country immensely, doesn’t make them a conservative. Dubya is proof positive of that.

ButterflyDragon on December 3, 2011 at 12:40 PM

Where can I find a list of the Senators adn Representatives who voted for this and who own stock in the CFC bulb manufacturers?

poplicola on December 3, 2011 at 12:47 PM

Maybe, as Fox anchor John Stossel suggested in a recent statement, the light bulb ban seems unimportant because it’s a “small” overreach. But I’d argue the very smallness and specificity of the ban is what makes it so potently representative of the worst excesses of the federal government. Nothing is so small or so personal as to go unregulated by an ever-expanding, avaricious administrative state. The government won’t even scruple to stay out of our homes, which are our personal dominions, our castles.

It’s hardly the first example. Just try to buy a toilet that flushes more than 1.6 gallons, or a showerhead with a flow rate greater than 2.5 gpm.

So, are we still the land of the free?

didymus on December 3, 2011 at 1:11 PM

I have one of the new lightbulbs in my kitchen that has been burning non-stop for five years.
When it goes out, I will have to contact a HazMat crew, but at least it lasts.

carbon_footprint on December 2, 2011 at 10:03 PM

That’s the secret to making them last — never turn them off. I use them outdoors and for night lights indoors. They stay on 24/7, and some of them are going into their seventh year.

petefrt on December 3, 2011 at 9:17 AM

Good to know. I’ve been buying the new bulbs for a while for a good market-based reason: It lets me put more light into a room. Rather than two 60-watt bulbs in a fixture rated for them, I can put in two 26-watt bulbs that are equivalent to 100-watt bulbs. They do last longer than incandescent bulbs, but nowhere near the promised lifetime.

Incandescent bulbs also get shorter lives from all the turning on and off. You’ll notice that the bulb almost always goes out at a point when you turn it back on, rather than while it’s in use. I used to leave them on when possible just because they lasted longer, and the surge of electricity when you turn them off and on generally makes up for the power they would have used if just left on.

I’ve never seen a study on how turning CFLs on and off affects their life, but there’s no denying that I’m not seeing the promised life span on these bulbs, and that makes sense. Especially since we already know that they take longer to warm up.

In fact, in a number of cases I just replaced the CFLs with incandescent bulbs since I had no good reason to pay more for the CFL.

didymus on December 3, 2011 at 1:34 PM

This holiday season, take the time to reach out and touch fuc*ing nitwit Fred Upton and thank him for his great leadership. And urge MI-6 voters to remove this worthless prick from office.

Jaibones on December 3, 2011 at 1:48 PM

That’s the secret to making them last — never turn them off. I use them outdoors and for night lights indoors. They stay on 24/7, and some of them are going into their seventh year.

petefrt on December 3, 2011 at 9:17 AM

Would not leaving them on all of the time negate the proposed energy savings from having an incandescent bulb in the socket and turning them off most of the time?

Theophile on December 3, 2011 at 3:06 PM

So, are we still the land of the free?

didymus on December 3, 2011 at 1:11 PM

Nope. America stood for freedom. Unfortunately, we are now The United States of Washington. :/

Theophile on December 3, 2011 at 3:07 PM

The fluorescent tubes in my kitchen fixture went out this week. In checking, I discovered that the problem was the ballasts died. Doing a bit of research on-line, I discovered that our DC minders:

- banned production of magnetic ballasts in 2008 – we are being forced to go to electronic ballasts, instead
- ruled that the T12 type fluorescent bulbs which I have can no longer be sold in the US as of July 14, 2012

So, I am now forced to buy new fixtures with T8 type electronic ballasts and a supply of the T8 tubes, and dump my 10 remaining T12 tubes. What should have been a relative simple and cheap affair has become much more expensive. Or I can pay to use the banned materials one more time, but then with any repair after next July I’ll have to pay again to replace them entirely with the new technology.

I’m waiting for the EPA ruling on mandatory $50 debris catching nail clippers.

in_awe on December 3, 2011 at 3:32 PM

The backwardness of banning a safe, non-toxic product so that people will be forced to buy a toxic one simply because it uses less electricity is mind boggling.

Count to 10 on December 3, 2011 at 12:00 PM

And the final proof of the politics which drive this idiocy is the stance on nuclear power. It makes more energy, more efficiently, at lower cost. But we can’t have it because the worst-case scenario risk is higher. The same logic is not applied here. Consistency from the government is a pipe-dream to wish for, but it should still be the standard.

Freelancer on December 3, 2011 at 3:32 PM

An incandescent bulb can last many many years; all you have to do is have it on a dimmer and run it at less than full brightness. Dim it just a bit and it’ll last ten times as long. At half power they last almost forever — but give off much less than half the light. Modern bulbs are designed to run very near their temperature limit. This makes them more efficient but they don’t last very long.

http://www.centennialbulb.org/kcra.htm

Pythagoras on December 3, 2011 at 5:14 PM

Unintended consequence #1450: we use 100 watt bulbs in our pump house to prevent the pipes freezing. They put out plenty of heat to stave off the relatively mild winters here in the Pacific Northwest. What alternative do we have? A 2500 watt space heater! Way to keep the carbon emissions down, you technologically illiterate dolts!

hburns on December 3, 2011 at 8:23 PM

What alternative do we have? A 2500 watt space heater! Way to keep the carbon emissions down, you technologically illiterate dolts!
hburns on December 3, 2011 at 8:23 PM

That’s right, heh!

Feedie on December 3, 2011 at 8:58 PM

IN MI HOuse passed bill to allow Tom’s bulb. Waiting for SEnate to pass the bill- then we can get a light bulb company to come and supply us with the bulbs creating some jobs-and Lord knows MI needs jobs!!

Bullhead on December 3, 2011 at 10:56 PM

Too bad for us. G.E. must be paid it’s “dues.”

keats5 on December 3, 2011 at 11:58 PM

I support mailing all our burned-out mercury-filled screwbulbs to Congress. Let them dispose of the hazardous waste.

RebeccaH on December 4, 2011 at 4:28 PM

There is a lot of things they don’t tell us about the bulbs and a thing or two they pretend are not true.

The new bulb is a florecent. Unlike the steady light of an incandecent it flickers. Most people will not notice it, but that flickering is noticeable for some people and can cause concentration and seizure issues.

Like all florecent bulbs, the light tends to react with materials and causes fading of cloth and paper, and yellowing of plastics.

The new bulb is made up of a lot of parts, which makes them much more expensive to make than an incandesent bulb. At the moment they cost the same as the old bulbs, but that is because the cost is being substidized by the government. Take away the substity and the cost is around $40 a bulb. Real life experience for most people is the bulb last a little longer than a regular 60 cent bulb, but no where near five years as claimed. If we paid the real price, how many burned out bulbs would it take to wipe out your savings in a years?

The reason they can claim five years is that under labratory conditions where the power supply is steady with no power spikes or other fluctuations and the light is not turned on an off while it is burning; both of which damage and destroy the ballast part of the bulb. In real world use this usually happens long before the five years is up, if not in the first year.

I had one recent experience where my desk lamp with one of the new bulbs suddenly expoded and flamed up when the ballast went. It left a heavy burn electrical stench in the room for the rest of the evening.

In the real world very few would call a hazmat team to clean up a broken bulb. First they make you seal off the room and wait until they have the permits to do the clean up. When they do arrive they clean up the glass and remove any thing that may have been contaminated, including a nice square of carpet if needed. The cost, not including replacing the carpet is around two thousand dollars. Most if not nearly all, are going to reach for the dustpan and broom, and it will join the millions of other mercury laden bulbs in the trash dump.

An adult is not going to be seriously harmed by the small amount in each bulb, but a young child may suffer neurological and cognitive disorders. Mercury contamination is not always visable to the eye. It never evaporates and is removed only by being picked up in some way. This means that you may never break a bulb but if you bought the house recently, was one broken in the house. Is a child or grandchild safe in a house with the original carpet and grouted ceramic tile or other tile with seams?

Then there is the disposal problem. Where do you take them? Ikea is the only place I am aware of. My guess would be collecting a hazardous waste in publicly accessable place requires a ton of permits and safeguards as a reason we do not see more desposal sites. That probably cost more than they made on selling the bulb.
Mean while we just toss them like the old ones and worry about the contamination in the next globle made for profit environmental concern.

Franklyn on December 4, 2011 at 6:20 PM

Would not leaving them on all of the time negate the proposed energy savings from having an incandescent bulb in the socket and turning them off most of the time?

Theophile on December 3, 2011 at 3:06 PM

Someone… finally… gets it.

Chaz706 on December 4, 2011 at 6:59 PM

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