Saturday, 5 September 2009

Light bulb ban could leave us all in the dark.

Some day soon I might have to write these weekly notes on the passing parade of English life by candle light, or at least by something that gives a good impression of it.

Why might that be? Because the EU has banned the sale and manufacture of traditional 100 watt light bulbs and decreed that their place must be taken by ecologically friendly compact fluorescent ones instead. A move that could, according to the Energy Saving Trust, cut the amount of electricity used for lighting by up to 80%.

All to the good you might think, and you might go on from there to think that anyone who complains about the change is just a stick in the mud. While the intentions behind the ban are on the side of the angels the way they have been implemented leaves much to be desired.

Take, for example, the health concerns relating to the use of fluorescent lighting, which can have an adverse effect on conditions such as lupus, migraine and epilepsy. Earlier this week David Price of Spectrum, a federation of charities representing people with light sensitive health conditions told the BBC that the government and through it the EU is ‘disregarding’ the concerns of the people fro whom his group speaks and the wider public.

The problem is, for the UK government at least, is that it finds itself caught between the rock of ever tougher environmental legislation being handed down from Brussels and the hard place of dealing with a green lobby that grows ever shriller and more unreasonable by the day, a combination of circumstances that is anathema to common sense.

All sensible people agree now that something has to be done to preserve the planet’s finite resources for future generations, the problem is how to go about doing so. Banning things, be they light bulbs, unnecessary flights or anything else that springs to mind is seldom the answer and almost always the default response of politicians who have been pushed into a corner by single issue lobby groups.

In a few years time the UK may well have a shortage of electricity to power its light bulbs, be they traditional of eco friendly, as an energy gap created by the closure of old nuclear and coal fired power stations and the lack of a sustainable alternative source of power. Government, green lobbyists and the EU have a role to play in helping to find a solution, but before that happens a little common sense must first enter the debate.

It is particularly important the green movement, who are one of the few political forces in the UK untouched by public cynicism about MP’s expenses and broken promises, learns this lesson. The time has come for them to put off the grimly doctrinaire attitudes of student radicalism and with them the hair shirt and embrace a willingness to compromise that creates enough public support to actually get things done.

Is it Dee time for Ross and co to go.

Simon Dee, one time chat show host and, for a brief moment, the epitome of everything that made London swing during the 1960’s died in obscurity last weekend aged 74.

Dee gave his name, so his obituaries told us this week, to a phenomenon referred to by cynical media types as ‘Simon Dee syndrome’, meaning the sad situation when a former celebrity is now only famous for no longer being famous. His brief career and the long littleness that followed can be seen as further confirmation of something that everyone in show business knows but pretends not to know; that fame is transient and that talent is the only guarantee of longevity.

You have to wonder if in the households of Jonathan Ross and Russell Brand, never mind those of the legions of people made fleetingly famous by reality television the announcement of Simon Dee’s demise caused this awkward truth to hit home, followed by the realisation that his sad ending might one day be theirs too. I really rather hope so.

1 comment:

  1. About light bulbs...
    most complaints seem to be about the new CFL energy saving lights - fair enough.

    But the actual reasoning behind the ban is flawed too, whether or not you agree with the main emission-lowering concern that started it all off
    (there is no shortage of energy itself, and if there was, the price rise would mean people would choose more efficient products anyway)

    The strange and unpublicised EU and industrial politics that went on before the ban took place:

    Europeans choose to buy ordinary light bulbs around 9 times out of 10 (light industry data 2007-8)
    Banning what people want gives the supposed savings - no point in banning an impopular product!

    If new LED lights -or improved CFLs- are good,
    people will buy them - no need to ban ordinary light bulbs (little point).
    If they are not good, people will not buy them - no need to ban ordinary light bulbs (no point).
    The arrival of the transistor didn't mean that more energy using radio tubes were banned... they were bought less anyway.

    Supposed savings don't hold up anyway, for many reasons:
    ( onwards
    about brightness, lifespan, power factor, lifecycle, heat effect of ordinary bulbs, and other referenced research)

    Effect on Electricity Bills
    If energy use does indeed fall with light bulb and other proposed efficiency bans,
    electricity companies make less money,
    and they’ll simply push up the electricity bills to compensate
    (especially since power companies often have their own grids with little supply competition)
    Energy regulators can hardly deny any such cost covering exercise...

    Does a light bulb give out any gases?
    Power stations might not either:
    Why should emission-free households be denied the use of lighting they obviously want to use?
    Low emission households already dominate some regions, and will increase everywhere, since emissions will be reduced anyway through the planned use of coal/gas processing technology and/or energy substitution.

    A direct way to deal with emissions (for all else they contain too, whatever about CO2):

    The Taxation alternative
    A ban on light bulbs is extraordinary, in being on a product safe to use.
    We are not talking about banning lead paint here.
    Even for those who remain pro-ban, taxation to reduce consumption would make much more sense, since governments can use the income to reduce emissions (home insulation schemes, renewable projects etc) more than any remaining product use causes such problems.
    A few pounds/euros/dollars tax that reduces the current sales (EU like the USA 2 billion sales per annum, UK 250-300 million pa)
    raises future billions, and would retain consumer choice.
    It could also be revenue neutral, lowering any sales tax on efficient products.

    However, taxation is itself unjustified, it is simply better than bans also for ban proponents, in the overall lowering of emissions.

    Of course an EU ban is underway, but in phases, with reviews in a couple of years time... not holding out too much hope on that one though :-)