Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Simple tax better than outright ban on incandescent bulbs

    Folks are squabbling over light bulbs, particularly the ban on 100-watt incandescent light bulbs that goes into effect on Jan. 1, 2012. Eventually the ban will include standard 60- and then 40-watt bulbs as well. Small-base and oven lights are not included in the ban, and thank goodness, because just look at the small-base bulb in the photo. That is not acceptable!
    Republicans in Congress are talking about repealing the ban. The state of Texas is considering going into the light bulb business, much as Mississippi did with the manufacture of mirex back in the 1970s. I suspect Texas would have better luck than Mississippi.
    I'm a big fan of CFL bulbs, as I've said before. The recessed 65-watt floods cost little more than incandescent floods, and the twirly bulbs have come down greatly in price. While the first CFL bulbs were pretty dreadful, throwing off a eery blue light, they have improved greatly.
    In our home we have approximately 80 recessed and other 60- or 65-watt lights. It's not uncommon for a few hours each night for most of these to be on. I don't go around flipping off light switches and freely admit it (the CFL bulbs take a couple of minutes to warm up, which is a disincentive to flip them on and off). Let's just assume 30 bulbs in use for 15 hours per day. CFL bulbs use 14 or 15 watts to produce the light of a 65-watt bulb, so our total lighting usage is just under seven kilowatt hours per day. With standard bulbs, our lighting usage would be 28 kilowatt hours per day. Nationally electricity costs about 12 cents per kw/hour, so we're talking about a cost of 84 cents per day to light one's home versus $3.36. Monthly that comes to $25.20 versus $100.80. Multiply that by a hundred million households and you can see what a difference the use of CFL bulbs can make for our country.
    Electricity isn't gasoline, of course, and saving electricity won't necessarily solve the oil shortage. But energy is energy, and the more we save as a nation the more we will have. It's a national security issue.
    Nevertheless, I'm opposed to an absolute ban on incandescent bulbs. CFL bulbs, despite their improvements, do have an inferior lighting spectrum. Artists, museums, fashion designers and many others need lighting that will be free of any distortion, however small. Incandescent bulbs provide this.
    So what should our government do? Simple. Levy a tax on incandescent bulbs of a quarter or so per bulb. It's the government's way of telling people to switch to more energy-efficient lighting while still leaving the traditional bulbs for those who truly need them.
    Raise taxes on investments and people will invest less. Levy a tax on incandescent light bulbs and people will buy fewer of them. It's always better to discourage an activity through a tax than to ban it outright, and that's what our government should do with incandescent bulbs.
    As for me, I'm happy with my CFL bulbs, thank you.

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