Take CFL bulbs- please; I'll keep my Edisons

The Madison County Record Feb. 6, 2011, 6:11am

To the Editor:

Might you have visited a favorite place recently and sensed that something was different? Such was a recent experience of mine.

Whether the owner of my favorite coffee shop just wanted to be a good citizen or saving money was his goal, I later learned that the owner had removed the mellow incandescent bulbs (Edison) from the fixtures overhead and replaced them with CFLs (compact fluorescent light bulbs).

Even though CFL bulbs have been praised as the greatest thing since sliced bread, my recent experience with CFL bulbs was decidedly negative. I found that a strange tinted-blue light prevailed, that the former sense of warmth and coziness was missing possibly because of the way the CFL bulbs refract.

Claims that manufacturers have made the CFL bulbs softer did not factor into my experience, nor is it the consensus of many who find that CFL bulbs do not compare to the warmth of Edison's classic invention.

Europe is already well along the way of mandating the use of CFL despite complaints from museum directors and other cultural leaders who see the light cast as harsh and flickery. Rob Long, writing in the National Review: "It is the kind of lights they used in East Germany to keep everyone sad and downcast."

Nevertheless, the traditional incandescent bulb is being phased out across Europe to slash carbon emissions in favor of the energy-saving bulb. In England medical charities claim that CFL bulbs trigger epileptic fits, migraines and skin rashes in venerable people, while "a spokesman for the Federal Environment Agency in Germany warned children and expecting mothers to keep away from burst energy-saving lamps."

In England turning on dim, harsh fluorescent lights signals concern for the environment. It is as if Mother Earth will somehow be convinced to return the favor with a cooler climate, even as England is experiencing its coldest winter on record!

According to a commentary in the Washington Times on Jan. 5, and whose prognosis is right on, "We can expect much of the absurdity across the Atlantic to happen here, unless this Congress returns to Americans the freedom to choose a real light bulb."

The 2007 Energy and Security Act, signed by President Bush, and which becomes effective nationwide on Jan. 1, 2012, went into effect in California a year early on Jan. 1 of this year with the outlawing of the 100-watt incandescent light bulb. The warm, natural light most Americans can enjoy and take for granted for at least another year is no longer possible for Californians. Furthermore, it has become a crime in California to sell newly manufactured Edison light bulbs of 100 watts or more.

It is not surprising that California has become the first state to say goodbye to the traditional 100-watt incandescent light bulb and the first in this nation to require a new standard for the screw-in light bulb.

A cliche often spoken about California, "As goes California, so goes the nation," is no longer a positive development for the rest of America. Having banned the Happy Meal, California has the highest taxes in the nation, the highest electricity rates (except for New England), and is pushing its own version of cap-and-trade which will drive up electricity rates even higher and cause the exodus of even more taxpayers from the state.

After 2014, according to the 2007 Energy and Security Act mandates, incandescent bulbs will no longer be sold in this country unless they meet efficiency standards. In other words, everyone will be required to use varieties of the CFL bulbs by 2015.

It is already "lights out" for Edison light bulb manufacturers in the U.S. The last GM factory making incandescent bulbs, located in Winchester, Va. closed in September of 2010. This marked a sad era with roots dating back to Thomas Edison in the 1870s. It also means more U.S. jobs will go overseas to China, as most of the compact fluorescent CFLs are being produced in China (CFLs require more hand labor. Even though first developed by American engineers in the 1970s, China can make CFLs more cheaply).

About the Edison bulb... after 100 years to perfect Edison's invention, the incandescent bulb is inexpensive to purchase. A 60-watt bulb often sells for as little as 29 cents, while the less pleasing light-producing squiggly bulb costs from $2 to $5 each.

Prices for higher CFL wattage bulbs and three-way configurations sometimes exceeds $10. Many might find CFL bulbs highly desirable to use if concerns center around the environment and global warming (A 27-watt compact florescent bulb provides the same amount of light as a traditional 100-watt incandescent bulb, while consuming about 75 percent less energy).

But what about the downside to compact flourescent bulbs? An article by Holly Martin titled, The Downside to Compact Fluorescent, lists the following six problems:

1) All CFLs contain a tiny bit of mercury, which is highly toxic.

2) By law, CFL bulbs must either be recycled or taken to an approved hazardous waste disposal site.

3) Most CFLs don't work on dimmer switches and might actually damage this kind of switch.

4) CFLs normally give off blue-tinted light and don't show objects in their true colors.

5) CFLs don't work well outdoors in cold weather.

6) Sensitivity to EMFs and flickering can make the use of CFLs unwise for a small percentage of the population.

The light bulb mandate strikes me as government by fiat. Might we have no choice but to follow through with the mandate by 2015?

But the American people do have a choice. I refuse to make the change over to CFL bulbs. Most likely many individuals, not unlike me, are buying enough Edison bulbs to last a lifetime. As aesthetics are important to me, I prefer the soft light produced by the traditional bulb to the harsh light of the squiggly CFLs.

What on earth is the point of inventing something which solves one problem, but which creates others? Granted, energy can be saved, but at what costs?

Will the environment really benefit if the pleasing, light-generating Edison bulb is sacrificed, or is this just another feel good measure to prove to others and the world that we are doing our part to please Mother Earth all in the name of Global Warming?

Nancy J. Thorner
Lake Bluff

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