Right-Wing Media Still Misinforming About Money-Saving, Energy-Efficient Light Bulbs
Research ››› ››› CHELSEA RUDMAN
Right-wing media have continued to attack energy standards that will phase out inefficient light bulbs by 2012, claiming the bill will "ban" incandescent light bulbs and force consumers to instead purchase either $50 light-emitting diode (LED) bulbs or "dangerous" compact florescent lights (CFL). In fact, the bill only bans inefficient incandescent light bulbs, and efficient bulbs -- whose prices vary considerably depending on the type of bulb and are also projected to drop -- will save consumers money in the long run; experts have also said that concerns over mercury in CFL bulbs are overstated.
Light Bulb Energy Efficiency Standards To Take Effect In 2012
AP: "Congress Passed A Law In 2007 Mandating That Bulbs Producing 100 Watts Worth Of Light Meet Certain Efficiency Goals." From the Associated Press (AP):
The technology in traditional "incandescent" bulbs is more than a century old. Such bulbs waste most of the electricity that feeds them, turning it into heat. The 100-watt bulb, in particular, produces so much heat that it's used in Hasbro's Easy-Bake Oven.
To encourage energy efficiency, Congress passed a law in 2007 mandating that bulbs producing 100 watts worth of light meet certain efficiency goals, starting in 2012. Conventional light bulbs don't meet those goals, so the law will prohibit making or importing them. The same rule will start apply to remaining bulbs 40 watts and above in 2014. Since January, California has already banned stores from restocking 100-watt incandescent bulbs. [Associated Press, 5/16/11]
Right-Wing Media Attack Energy-Efficient Light Bulbs; Fearmonger About Costs, "Danger[s]"
Lee: "The Lighting Industry Comes Up With A Bright New Idea ... It's Sure To Burn A Hole In Your Wallet, Though." On the May 17 edition of Fox News' Happening Now, anchor Jenna Lee teased an upcoming story on Fox News' America Live by saying, "Coming up, the lighting industry comes up with a bright new idea -- no pun intended there. It's sure to burn a hole in your wallet, though." [Fox News, Happening Now, 5/17/11]
MacCallum: New Bulbs Come "With A Hefty Price Tag"; Gallagher Suggests It Could Cost "Two Grand" To Replace Lights In 4000 Square Foot House. On the May 17 edition of Fox News' America Live, guest host Martha MacCallum and Fox News anchor Trace Gallagher reported on the lighting standards and efficient light bulbs. Gallagher said that "florescent lights are an [energy-efficient] option, but they contain toxic mercury. The fear is that they break, or if you dispose of them improperly, that it could be a health threat." He then claimed that LED bulbs are "now the common alternatives, but they're really not bright enough to light up a room" and that 100 watt LED bulbs coming out "next year" will "be $50, and no one's sure how bright they're going to be." Gallagher acknowledged that LED light bulbs are "supposed to last for like 20 years," but concluded that at "$50" for a light bulb, it could cost "two grand to put lights in a 4,000 square foot house." [Fox News, America Live, 5/17/11]
Beck: "Now We Find Out ... A Light Bulb Is Going To Cost $50?" Glenn Beck also discussed the LED light bulbs and upcoming efficiency standards during his May 17 Fox News show. Beck said:
BECK: Last week, we had a story of the new CFL light bulbs. Oh, you can't get too close to them when you read. No, can't let your children get near them and of course, you should never leave your home in the hands of these things. If they break, you have to call HAZMAT.
But now we find out that it's -- a light bulb is going to cost $50? When 100 watt light bulbs become a luxury item, that seems that that would be, like, the time when the poor and the middle class, the Democrats keep saying they just love so much, they want to hold them and cuddle with them, they say, "Hey, I'm paying four bucks for a gallon of gas, twice as much as I used to pay for corn! My grocery bills are going through the roof. And now, you want me to sit at my kitchen table staring at my empty dinner plate in the dark as well?" [Fox News, Glenn Beck, 5/17/11]
Limbaugh: "Who Wants To Pay 50 Bucks For A Light Bulb?" During the May 17 edition of his Premiere Radio Networks show, host Rush Limbaugh said:
LIMBAUGH: So here come the compact fluorescents, but they're dangerous. You need the HAZMAT people every time you drop one and break one. It could really poison you. There's mercury in there.
The LEDs are not the compact fluorescents. However, a 100 watt LED bulb is going to cost $50. $50 per bulb. In other words, like every other product launch, it is going to require the filthy rich to start buying these things in quantity in order to get the price down.
People are still going to be hoarding the incandescents, because they can't afford 50 bucks. Even if they could, who wants to pay 50 bucks for a light bulb? Now, the LED will last longer, but $50 for a light bulb." [Premiere Radio Networks, The Rush Limbaugh Show, 5/17/11]
Big Gov: "Light Bulbs To Cost $50 Each." A May 16 post on Andrew Breitbart's blog Big Government, included excerpts of the AP article under the headline, "Thank You Fred Upton: Light Bulbs to Cost $50 Each":
From the Associated Press:
Two leading makers of lighting products are showcasing LED bulbs that are bright enough to replace energy-guzzling 100-watt light bulbs set to disappear from stores in January.
Their demonstrations at the LightFair trade show in Philadelphia this week mean that brighter LED bulbs will likely go on sale next year, but after a government ban takes effect.
The new bulbs will also be expensive -- about $50 each -- so the development may not prevent consumers from hoarding traditional bulbs.
Read the whole thing here. The author of the light bulb ban, GOP Rep. Fred Upton, promised to revisit this nanny law as a condition of being given the gavel of the House Energy and Commerce Committee. Color us unsurprised that he has reneged on that promise. You know what you should do. In 2010 we had to defeat Democrats. Time now to defeat Republicans. [Big Government, 5/16/11, emphasis in the original]
The Blaze: "Are You Ready To Pay $50 For A 100-Watt Bulb?" Glenn Beck's website, the Blaze, also linked to the AP article under the headline, "Are You Ready To Pay $50 For A 100-Watt Bulb?" [The Blaze, 5/17/11]
But LED Costs Projected To Decrease Within 4-6 Years
AP: "LED Prices Are Coming Down Quickly ... A 60-Watt Equivalent LED Bulb [Is Expected] To Cost $10 By 2015." The May 16 AP article stated, "LED prices are coming down quickly. The DoE expects a 60-watt equivalent LED bulb to cost $10 by 2015, putting them within striking range of the price of a compact fluorescent bulb." [Associated Press, 5/16/11]
VentureBeat: "The Cost Of [LED] Light Bulbs ... Could Fall By As Much As 50 Percent By 2017." From VentureBeat, a blog about business and innovation:
The cost of light bulbs that use light-emitting diodes (LED), which are much more efficient than typical incandescent light bulbs, could fall by as much as 50 percent by 2017, said Phillips Lighting chief executive Zia Eftekhar.
LED light bulbs haven't taken off yet because the price tag per LED bulb can be as high as $50. But the latest generation of light bulbs can generate as much light as a 100-watt incandescent bulb using as little as 14 watts of power. Those LED bulb versions will be out sometime next year. That means consumers can save a lot of money over the life of the LED light -- but they still have to pay a lot of money upfront, which can cut out casual buyers. [VentureBeat, 5/18/11]
LED Light Bulbs Are Not Consumers' Only Choice Under New Standards
The Energy Independence And Security Act Sets "Energy Efficiency Standards" For Incandescent Bulbs, Doesn't Ban Them. From Title III of the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007:
Subtitle B: Lighting Energy Efficiency - (Sec. 321) Amends EPCA to prescribe energy efficiency standards for general service incandescent lamps, rough service lamps, and other designated lamps.
Directs the Secretary of Energy to: (1) conduct and report to the FTC on an annual assessment of the market for general service lamps and compact fluorescent lamps; and (2) carry out a proactive national program of consumer awareness, information, and education about lamp labels and energy-efficient lighting choices. Authorizes appropriations for FY2009-FY2012.
Instructs the Secretary of Energy to report to Congress on: (1) federal measures to reduce or prevent release of mercury during the manufacture, transportation, storage, or disposal of light bulbs; (2) whether specified rulemaking deadlines will be met; (3) an NAS review of advanced solid state lighting R&D and the impact upon the types of lighting available to consumers of an energy conservation standard requiring a minimum of 45 lumens per watt for general service lighting; and (4) the time frame for commercialization of lighting to replace incandescent and halogen incandescent lamp technology.
(Sec. 322) Sets forth minimum energy efficiency standards for incandescent reflector lamps.
(Sec. 323) Amends federal law governing congressional approval of proposed public buildings projects to require the Administrator of General Services (GSA) to: (1) transmit to Congress an estimate of the future energy performance of the building or space and a specific description of the use of energy efficient and renewable energy systems, including photovoltaic systems; and (2) include, with respect to space to be leased, the minimum performance requirements for energy efficiency and renewable energy.
Sets forth requirements for the use of energy efficient lighting fixtures and bulbs in public building construction, alteration, and acquisition.
(Sec. 324) Amends EPCA to include within its regulatory oversight: (1) metal halide lamp fixtures; and (2) energy efficiency labeling for designated consumer electronic products. [Public Law No. 110-140, 12/19/07, emphasis in the original]
Philips Electronics Executive: "There Has Been No Ban On The Incandescent Light Bulb." From a December 9, 2010, NPR interview with Philips Electronics VP Randy Moorhead:
SHOGREN: So will the government really take away your choice in light bulbs?
Randy Moorhead, vice president and lobbyist for Philips Electronics, says no.
Mr. RANDY MOORHEAD (Vice President, Philips Electronics): There has been no ban on the incandescent light bulb. The incandescent light bulb actually lives. It's just going to be 30 percent more efficient.
SHOGREN: An energy bill signed by President Bush three years ago requires light bulbs to use at least 30 percent less electricity than traditional bulbs. But Moorhead says in anticipation of the new standards, companies like his have started selling new incandescent bulbs that comply with the law. They're made with a slightly different technology than Thomas Edison's invention. They use halogen gas. Moorhead says consumers won't notice a difference in the way they look or work compared to old-fashioned incandescent bulbs.
Mr. MOORHEAD: They're just going to find their electricity bills are a lot lower. [NPR, 12/9/10]
GE, Sylvania, Philips All Developing Incandescent Bulbs That Will Meet Efficiency Requirements. According to the New York Times:
When Congress passed a new energy law two years ago, obituaries were written for the incandescent light bulb. The law set tough efficiency standards, due to take effect in 2012, that no traditional incandescent bulb on the market could meet, and a century-old technology that helped create the modern world seemed to be doomed.
But as it turns out, the obituaries were premature.
Indeed, the incandescent bulb is turning into a case study of the way government mandates can spur innovation.
"There's a massive misperception that incandescents are going away quickly," said Chris Calwell, a researcher with Ecos Consulting who studies the bulb market. "There have been more incandescent innovations in the last three years than in the last two decades."
With the new efficiency standards, experts predict more companies will develop specialized reflective coatings for incandescents. The big three lighting companies -- General Electric, Osram Sylvania and Philips -- are all working on the technology, as is Auer Lighting of Germany and Toshiba of Japan.
And a wave of innovation appears to be coming. David Cunningham, an inventor in Los Angeles with a track record of putting lighting innovations on the market, has used more than $5 million of his own money to develop a reflective coating and fixture design that he believes could make incandescents 100 percent more efficient. [New York Times, 7/5/09]
Detroit News: "Stores Feature A Host Of [Bulb] Options That Weren't There Just A Few Years Ago." From an article in the Detroit News titled, "Consumers have many options for energy-efficient light bulbs":
Stroll through any store that carries light bulbs these days and you'll find a host of options that weren't there just a few years ago. Next to your old incandescent lights, you'll find twisty-looking compact fluorescent (CFL) bulbs, cone-shaped light-emitting diode (LED) bulbs, or stubby-looking halogens, each offering more energy savings than ever before -- some by more than 75 percent -- while lasting years longer. [Detroit News, 2/13/11]
And Energy-Efficient Bulbs Save Money, Last For Decades
Energy Star: "Replacing Your Five Most Frequently Used Light Fixtures ... [With] Qualified Lights Can Save $70 A Year In Energy Costs." From the website of Energy Star, a joint program of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Department of Energy:
Lighting is one of the easiest places to start saving energy.
- Replacing your five most frequently used light fixtures or the bulbs in them with ENERGY STAR qualified lights can save $70 a year in energy costs.
- ENERGY STAR qualified compact fluorescent light bulbs (CFLs) provide high-quality light output, use less energy and last up to 10 times longer than standard incandescent light bulbs, saving money on energy bills and replacement costs. [Energy Star, accessed 5/18/11]
KABC LA: Consumer Reports Found That One LED Bulb Left On "For Six Hours A Day ... Would Last For 22 Years." From a January 10 article by ABC affiliate KABC Los Angeles:
When it comes to buying energy-efficient light bulbs, you've got new choices. LED bulbs are just hitting store shelves now and they claim to last five times longer than CFLs and 25 times longer than incandescent bulbs.
As of the first of the year California requires new restrictions on incandescent light bulbs, and IKEA stores have decided not to sell incandescent light bulbs at all.
Consumer Reports tester John Banta has an illuminating visitor in his home: the Cree CR6 LED floodlight, the latest in light bulb technology.
"It's very similar to an incandescent bulb, but it doesn't get hot. It doesn't use as much energy," said Banta.
Back in the labs, Consumer Reports testers have this bulb burning continuously. The new Cree says it will last a whopping 50,000 hours.
"To reach 50,000 hours, let's say you have the light on for six hours a day, that means this bulb would last for 22 years," said Consumer Reports tester Dan DiClerico. [KABC, 1/10/11]
EIA Projects Show "Incandescent Bulbs [Will] Still Play A Role" In Lighting; Total Bulbs Consumed Will Drop By About 60 Percent By 2035. A post on the U.S. Energy Information Administration website shows that incandescent bulbs will remain in use over the next 25 years, and also projects that the total number of light bulbs purchased will drop from 1.52 billion bulbs in 2010 to 530 million bulbs in 2035. A chart from the post demonstrates the projected changes in light bulb use:
Experts Say CFL Mercury Concerns Are Overstated
Product Safety Group: "If Disposed Of Properly, Mercury In CFLs Shouldn't Be A Safety Hazard." According to a report on CFLs and mercury from the product safety certification organization Underwriters Laboratories:
Myth - The contents of CFLs are bad for people and the environment.
Truth - CFLs contain a small amount of mercury sealed within the glass tubing - approximately 5 milligrams - a hundred times less mercury than found in a single old-style glass thermometer. No mercury is released when the lamps are intact or in use and if disposed of properly, mercury in CFLs shouldn't be a safety hazard. [Underwriters Laboratories, accessed 3/22/11]
Lawrence Berkeley Lab Researchers: If Cleaned Up Properly, Mercury Exposure "Would Be The Equivalent Of Taking A Tiny Nibble Of Tuna." According to Yahoo! News, researchers at the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory have found that mercury exposure from broken CFLs is comparable to eating tuna:
But, just how dangerous is a broken bulb? Researchers at the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory set out to answer that question. They compared how much exposure you'd get from breathing in the amount of mercury released from a broken CFL bulb to how much mercury you'd take in from eating Albacore tuna.
If you do a common sense job of cleaning up (open the windows, clean up, and remove the debris), then your mercury exposure would be the equivalent of taking a tiny nibble of tuna, according to Francis Rubinstein, a staff scientist at Berkeley Lab. What if you did the worst job possible, say closed all the doors and smashed the bulb with a hammer? It's still no big deal, says Rubinstein, who points out that it would be the equivalent of eating one can of tuna. [Yahoo! News, 5/7/09]
Energy Star: Mercury In CFLs Is Dwarfed By Mercury Emissions From Coal-Fired Electricity. From Energy Star, a program of the Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Department of Energy:
EPA estimates the U.S. is responsible for the release of 103 metric tons of mercury emissions each year. More than half of these emissions come from coal-fired electrical power. Mercury released into the air is the main way that mercury gets into water and bio-accumulates in fish. (Eating fish contaminated with mercury is the main way for humans to be exposed.)
CFLs contain a very small amount of mercury sealed within the glass tubing - an average of 4 milligrams. Because of this, EPA recommends that consumers take advantage of available local recycling options for CFLs. But if the CFL is not recycled and it ends up in a landfill, EPA estimates that about 11% of the mercury in the CFL is released into air or water, assuming the light bulb is broken. This is because most mercury vapor inside fluorescent light bulbs becomes bound to the inside of the light bulb. Therefore, if all 270 million CFLs sold in 2009 were sent to a landfill (versus recycled, as a worst case) - they would add only 0.12 metric tons, or 0.12%, to U.S. mercury emissions caused by humans. [Energy Star, November 2010]
Conservative Media Have A History Of Attacking Efficiency Standards
Right-Wing Media Hype Phony "Light Bulb Ban." Since the Energy Independence and Security Act was passed in 2007, right-wing media have claimed the bill outlaws incandescent light bulbs -- but the bill only sets standards for light bulbs and does not ban all incandescent bulbs, only inefficient ones. [Media Matters, 1/4/11]
Conservative Media Push Misconception That Efficiency Standards Eliminate Light Bulb "Choice." Conservative media promoted efforts to repeal provisions of the 2007 Energy Independence and Security Act, claiming that the law banned incandescent light bulbs and that Americans will no longer have choice over their light bulb purchases. [Media Matters, 3/4/11]
Forbes Joins Fight Against Money-Saving Light Bulbs. In a column for Forbes magazine, Steve Forbes endorsed Republicans' proposal to repeal light bulb efficiency standards signed into law by President Bush in 2007 and attempted to debunk the fact that compact fluorescent lamps (CFLs) save consumers money by using less energy, even though tests have shown that CFLs can save households money even under the least ideal conditions. [Media Matters, 3/23/11]