A shot in the dark

Last week the New York Times ran a rather lengthy (for them) article on light bulbs.

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The author came much closer than most to the actual state of affairs, writing that lighting was about 10% of total energy use. Actually, according to the Department of Energy, household electricity (of which lighting is a small part) accounts for about 9%. But, since the media usually merely quotes the fantasy figures bandied about by those who claim we can save the world by changing a light bulb (usually that lighting represents 20-25% of our energy use), I'm impressed that this author came as close as he did.

...that lighting accounts for less than 10 percent of total U.S. energy consumption.

One other point was news to me. It turns out it was the lighting companies themselves who pushed for the new energy efficiency standards that effectively banned most incandescent lights. Now why would these companies want to sell us $2 CFLs that are supposed to last for years and years and years? I wonder what they know that we don't.

So some years ago, Philips formed a coalition with environmental groups including the Natural Resources Defense Council to push for higher standards. =93We felt that we needed to make a call, and show that the best-known lighting technology, the incandescent light bulb, is at the end of its lifetime,=94 says Harry Verhaar, the company=92s head of strategic sustainability initiatives. Philips told its environmental allies it was well positioned to capitalize on the transition to new technologies and wanted to get ahead of an efficiency movement that was gaining momentum abroad and in states like California. Other manufacturers were more wary, but they also understood the downside to selling a ubiquitous commodity: the profit margin on a bulb that sells for a quarter is negligible. After much negotiation, the industry and environmental groups agreed to endorse tightening efficiency by 25 to 30 percent.

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