Author’s note: I originally intended to post this article on Friday, however although I turned the CFL lights on immediately, it took until this morning for them to finally warm up.
In a piece titled “The GOP’s Relentless Crusade to Save America From Commie Light Bulbs,” the Daily Beast’s Michael Tomsasky argues that the GOP battle to overturn the rules on incandescent light bulbs is some sort of “culture war.”
But one fact about this new budget is worth contemplation. It carries forward the culture war over light bulbs. Yes, light bulbs. And the reasons for the light-bulb culture war? Well, pretty much the same reasons for the rest of the culture war. Light bulbs became culture-war fodder about three years ago when they started to look like curly fries at Arby’s. They started costing more. They got… funny. And confusing. Now we had to learn about things like “lumens”—which sounds vaguely European, like some legume favored by those socialized-medicine-loving people of Scandinavia. Of course this happened after Obama became president. And, of course, libruls and gummint people started talking them up.
But it was George W. Bush’s Department of Energy that got this ball rolling, back in 2007, and the light-bulb industry immediately embraced the switchover to CFL bulbs (compact fluorescents—the squiggly spiraley ones) because they had the technology on hand to start making them and capture market share. They last far longer than incandescent bulbs and save enormous amounts of energy. If every American household replaced 15 old-style bulbs with 15 CFLs, or better yet LED bulbs (the ones that often have that kind of fan-like look on the narrow part of the body leading up to the bulb), we’d save an equivalent of more than 40 power plants’ energy output.
It is not news that the ban on incandescent flashbulbs was passed during the Bush administration. In fact back in those day’s we had the light to read the legislation better.
But as Groucho sang in “Duck Soup,” “Whatever it is, I’m against it,” and so it is with conservatives: If liberals are for it, they automatically turn anti. A study last spring by a researcher at the University of Pennsylvania found the following: She took two sets of liberals and conservatives and explained to them that CFL bulbs cost more upfront but saved money over the long haul and could reduce our dependence on foreign energy sources. At this point, liberals and conservatives reacted with more or less equal enthusiasm. But then? As Grist reported it: “Slap a message on the CFL’s packaging that says ‘Protect the Environment,’ and ‘we saw a significant dropoff in more politically moderates and conservatives choosing that option,’ said study author Dena Gromet.”
I would love to see a different test. Namely, have the same people walk into a room lit by incandescent lights and turn on the switch. Then instruct them to go into a room with CFL bulbs and flip on the juice. It will take up to ten minutes for the room with the CFL lights to be bright enough to see as well as the incandescent lights.
The opposition to CFL lights has nothing to do with the fact they protect the environment. It’s the fact that they don’t work well. Tomsasky is mistaken in calling this a “culture war.” It’s really a war to be able to see when I have to go to the bathroom in the middle of the night and turn on the light. Perhaps liberals prefer it that way so we don’t see that the new-fanged toilets we are stuck with that don’t really flush very well.
Perhaps the real reason that progressives like Tomsasky are working so hard to foist CFL bulbs on us is to make conservatives go blind from reading in dim light, so we cannot read what they are hiding in legislation.