EU Couldn’t Make It Up!

This post was written by Salman Shaheen on August 31, 2009
Posted Under: Environment,European Union

EU phases out inefficient light bulbs

Not content with telling us that bananas and cucumbers must be straight, milk chocolate must be called vegelate1 and hula hoops are round, they’re staying round and they’ll be around for ever, the evil EU is now dictating what kind of light bulb hard working Brits are allowed to use in their own home. Apparently, those pesky policy makers think they can save a million tonnes of CO2 a year by 2020 and save the average household £37 if they phase out the inefficient old 100W bulbs. Under new rules which are to be implemented this week, shops will only be permitted to sell their existing stocks of the old bulbs. From now on they will be required to buy the new energy-saving bulbs which use 80% less electricity and have already become ubiquitous in British homes. In doing so, the EU hopes to help you save money and the environment. You couldn’t make it up!

1 You couldn’t make it up, but it turns out the tabloids did. To this day these ridiculous myths are repeated verbatim in the right wing press without ever having had any basis in truth. The EU has its flaws, but the regulation of bananas isn’t one of them!

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Reader Comments

It is extraordinary to ban a safe popular product,
instead of dealing directly with any energy and emission problems.
See http://www.ceolas.net/#li1x onwards

The particular error of banning 100W+ ordinary bulbs is that bright CFLs or LEDs are comparatively difficult and expensive to make,
and the high wattage heat effect is not necessarily wasted (room heat substantially rises towards the ceiling by convection, and spreads downwards from there).

Banning frosted lights smacks of particularly unwarranted EU pettiness, for any marginal savings involved.
Clear lights (including halogens) have a strong glare – hence the overwhelming popularity of frosted lights for ceiling use.

Another problem is that small bright CFLs and LEDs are difficult to make, so that candle/golfball lights are bulkier and may not fit some lamps.

Supposed savings don’t hold up for many reasons:
Just a few examples here: CFL Lifespan is lab tested in 3 hour cycles. That does not correspond to real life usage and numerous tests have shown real life type on-off switching reducing lifespan. Leaving lights on of course also uses up energy, as does the switch-on power surge with CFLs
Also, CFLs get dimmer with age, effectively reducing lifespan

Power factor: Few people know that CFLs typically have a power factor of 0.5 – that means that power stations use up twice as much power than what the CFL rating shows. This has to do with current and voltage phase differences set up when CFLs are used.
Although consumers do not see this on their meters, they will of course have to pay for it on their bills.
This is explained with official links including to US Dept of Energy here: http://ceolas.net/#li15eux

Emissions?
Does a light bulb give out any gases?
Power stations might not either:
Why should emission-free households be denied the use of lighting they obviously want to use?
Low emission households already dominate some regions, and will increase everywhere, since emissions will be reduced anyway through the planned use of coal/gas processing technology and/or energy substitution.

#1 
Written By peter in dublin on August 31st, 2009 @ 7:04 pm

“the high wattage heat effect is not necessarily wasted (room heat substantially rises towards the ceiling by convection, and spreads downwards from there).”

So light bulbs are the best way to heat houses?

“Does a light bulb give out any gases? Power stations might not either.”

That’s a rather flimsy point considering the tiny fraction of power we receive from renewable sources. Yes of course we should be pushing for changing patterns of power production, but we need to tackle consumption too.

“Why should emission-free households be denied the use of lighting they obviously want to use?”

People should be able to do whatever they want regardless of the consequences, is that what you’re saying? I’m not in favour of unnecessary lifestyle restrictions, but compromises do need to be made when it comes to the environment. I’m sure people in Bangladesh don’t want to lose their homes to flooding.

#2 
Written By Salman Shaheen on August 31st, 2009 @ 7:26 pm

Thanks for your reply Salman,
re “So light bulbs are the best way to heat houses?”
Not at all, as I you’ll see on
http://www.ceolas.net/#li6x
- the point is that the heat is not necessarily a waste.

Re “Does a light bulb give out any gases? Power stations might not either: That’s a rather flimsy point”

The point is where there is a problem: deal with the problem
The argument (sometimes made, a bit like you say)that “Carbon emission reduction in electricity production and distribution is too slow and expensive for all concerned, we must also act on consumption, banning products that don’t meet defined efficiency standards” doesn’t hold up:
see http://www.ceolas.net/#cc201x

(Continued)

#3 
Written By peter in dublin on August 31st, 2009 @ 9:07 pm

(continued)
If there still was a consumption problem, product taxation is in my view a better way forward:
http://ceolas.net/#gg5x
A ban on light bulbs is extraordinary, in being on a product safe to use, unlike say lead paint
(and light bulbs themselves don’t give out CO2 gas)
Even for those who remain pro-ban, taxation to reduce consumption would make more sense, since governments can use the income to reduce emissions (home insulation schemes, renewable projects etc) more than any remaining product use causes such problems.

A few euros (or equivalent) tax that reduces the current sales (EU 2 billion per annum, UK c. 250-300 million pa, Germany c 1/2 billion per annum), raises future billions, and would retain consumer choice.
It could also be revenue neutral, lowering any sales tax on efficient products.
However, taxation is itself unjustified, it is simply better than bans also for ban proponents, in overall emssion lowering terms.

RE “People should be able to do whatever they want regardless of the consequences is that what you’re saying?”
Not at all – I do know that many against the ban are
against the need to think about emissions,
but my point is that that CO2 and other emissions can and should be dealt with, directly and more effectively
see http://ceolas.net/#cc10x
and http://ceolas.net/#em1x

#4 
Written By peter in dublin on August 31st, 2009 @ 9:11 pm

But what counts as not safe? Lead paint is unsafe in the short term on the personal level. Excessive carbon emissions are unsafe in the long term on the global level. I appreciate you don’t deny the need to do something about it, but I don’t believe it is possible to meet the energy requirements of present day society purely through renewable means. If we are to expect the expansion of renewable energy production to make a real impact, we must also see a coinciding lowering of energy consumption. A tax is one solution, but I think problems of this scale and immediacy need much stronger answers than that. You don’t by any chance work for a lightbulb manufacturer do you?

#5 
Written By Salman Shaheen on August 31st, 2009 @ 9:21 pm

RE “You don’t by any chance work for a lightbulb manufacturer do you?”
No, I don’t think they like my criticism :-)
(at least not the major manufacturers http://www.ceolas.net/#li1ax )

The point about taxation, which I otherwise wouldn’t support, is that it could also help fund the renewable projects in these bad economic times.
A very high tax could effectively strangle purchases anyway, while still giving good government income (in being at such a high rate, despite the few purchases).

Certainly, setting up low emitting / renewable energy can take time, but by focusing on grid interconnections, the spread could be rapid
http://ceolas.net/#ge2x

While I agree that consumption may have to be looked at, I believe in top down rather than bottom up policies, it seems an easy way out to ban consumer products to show “something is being done” with limited benefits, rather than the less dramatic but more effective dealing with energy/emission issues themselves, in the first instance.

However, if consumer bans come first, that also means they should be seen as temporary:
Once sufficient low emitting / renewable energy is in place, there is no need to keep any imposed bans, even if they were felt to be justified now.

#6 
Written By peter in dublin on August 31st, 2009 @ 10:03 pm

I also believe in top down solutions first, but the problem is a bottom up one resulting in too many people consuming too many resources with too little efficiency and using too much energy. Broad treaty agreements, such as last month’s G8 resolution, are absolutely necessary to tackle climate change at the highest level and set definite targets for lowering carbon emissions. But at some point the issue of consumption patterns has to be addressed. Banning 100W light bulbs is far from an answer, but it is the first in hopefully a very long series of steps. The much bigger issue is the burning of fossil fuels for transportation. I would be much happier if American gas guzzlers were banned or taxed off the road.

#7 
Written By Salman Shaheen on August 31st, 2009 @ 10:26 pm

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