Conservatively Speaking

State Senator Mary Lazich (R-New Berlin) represents parts of four counties: Milwaukee, Waukesha, Racine, and Walworth. Her Senate District 28 includes New Berlin, Franklin, Greendale, Hales Corners, Muskego, Waterford, Big Bend, the town of Vernon and parts of Greenfield, East Troy, and Mukwonago. Senator Lazich has been in the Legislature for more than a decade. She considers herself a tireless crusader for lower taxes, reduced spending and smaller government.

New light bulbs not so green after all

Traditional, incandescent light bulbs Americans have been using for years are being phased out. Taking their place: fluorescent bulbs that have been mandated by the federal government. Part of the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007 approved and signed into law during 2007 calls for the elimination of traditional light bulbs beginning in 2012 leading to an all-out ban in 2014 in favor of energy-saving compact fluorescent bulbs or CFLs that contain mercury. When broken, the bulbs leak mercury into surroundings, requiring extreme caution and care.

According to Governing Magazine, 
the problems associated with CFLs will only get worse. The first supplies of CFLs that were purchased during 2008 will start to lose their life during 2011. Certainly many consumers will simply dump them in the garbage and their next stop will be local landfills all across the United States.

Recycling programs for CFLs, so far, have not caught on with the public.  To work, consumers must change their routine of tossing CFLs in the trash and actually make a trip to a location that collects the burnt-out CFLs.  The campaign to urge consumers to run out and buy CFLs was probably more expansive and successful than the future public relations effort to get them to travel to a collection site.

One bulb contains but a tiny amount of mercury, but it is estimated that 290 million CFLs were sold during 2007.  As Governing Magazine reports, “Once mercury reaches a landfill, the risk of its being released remains forever.”
  Landfill operation failures could result in mercury being released into groundwater and the air.

A more recent analysis questions the green claims made about LEDs or light-emitting devices. A study was conducted by the highly-regarded Sandia National Laboratories in New Mexico .  Researchers at the Sandia facility recently developed a device that propels a blade of water capable of penetrating steel that U.S. troops in Afghanistan will use to disable improvised explosive devices. Sandia’s study on LEDs suggests a re-examination of products that advertise energy savings. A Sandia news release reports:

“Solid-state lighting pioneers long have held that replacing the inefficient Edison light bulb with more efficient solid-state light-emitting devices (LEDs) would lower electrical usage worldwide, not only ‘greenly’ decreasing the need for new power plants but even permitting some to be decommissioned. But, in a paper published in the Journal of Physics D, leading LED researchers from Sandia National Laboratories argue for a shift in that view. ‘Presented with the availability of cheaper light, humans may use more of it, as has happened over recent centuries with remarkable consistency following other lighting innovations,’ said Sandia lead researcher Jeff Tsao.”

Here is the Sandia release. 

In Washington D.C., Representatives Joe Barton, Michael Burgess, and Marsha Blackburn want to repeal the ban on traditional light bulbs. Representative Burgess told the blog, Power Line, “Thousands of American jobs have been shipped overseas as a direct consequence of this light bulb provision in the Democrats' 2007 energy bill. Further, I have stated all along that exposing our citizens to the harmful effects of the mercury contained in CFL light bulbs, which are being manufactured in China, is likely to pose a hazard for years to come.”

Representative Barton said, “The unanticipated consequence of the '07 act - Washington-mandated layoffs in the middle of a desperate recession - is one of many examples of what happens when politicians and activists think they know better than consumers and workers, From the health insurance you're allowed to have, to the car you can drive, to the light bulbs you can buy, Washington is making too many decisions that are better left to people who work for their own paychecks and earn their own living.”

I wholeheartedly concur.

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