Konawaena High School’s GoGreen Club is planning a light bulb exchange. This club’s founding was sparked no doubt by environmentally concerned teachers whose inculcation of their young impressionable charges includes the daily GoGreen mantra. The general 3 Rs (reduce, reuse & recycle) are admirable, but maybe the curriculum should include more of the traditional 3 Rs as the teachers union struggles with the mandated increased instruction time after it was disclosed during teacher furloughs last year that Hawaii has the lowest in the nation, matching student performance.
What we give up in lighting efficiency vs. far better ways (cleaning coal production and developing our huge natural gas resources) to save energy industrially across the nation and planet seems misdirected. After converting to some CFLs a couple years ago, I found they do not last longer than adjacent incandescent bulbs in my kitchen and they certainly do not give the same quality of light. PG&E in California has done extensive research and discovered is that it is hard to accurately predict and tricky to measure energy savings. A lot of greenies quote the $13B in energy savings and a lifespan of 10 years for the bulbs, but it just isn’t true. Bulb burnout rate is much higher than touted. PG&E spent $92M on rebates and concluded that energy savings were 73% less than projected.
What about the mercury? Recycling & waste collection may higher than the cost of the bulb (jeopardizing the ‘cheaper in the long run’ theory). There are detailed instructions for cleaning up the toxic mercury in broken bulbs. These include evacuation of people and pets ~except for the lucky short-straw chump who must perform the careful and thorough collection of the glass (presumably with gloves and mask), NOT using a vacuum. Then the room where the bulb was broken must be aired out for several hours while leaving the heating or air conditioning off. In the future, our aquifers will be polluted by mercury leaching from sanitary landfills because most households will not properly dispose of the CFLs.
Where do the CFLs come from? You guessed it! More than 50% are from China. Do you think the Chicoms care about the safety of workers who make the CFLs? And what about the fuel it takes to ship them to us, or the jobs lost here by displaced incandescent manufacturers? It’s government solving 1 problem and creating several more. I’d just as soon go for saving the forests by doing away with our tax code!