Ban the Bulb

By Ryan McGreal
Published February 07, 2006

BBC News has an interesting opinion piece written by Matt Prescott, arguing that governments struggling with energy scarcity should consider banning incandescent light bulbs.

Prescott, who runs, a blog campaign to encourage more energy efficiency, says incandescent bulbs are so wasteful that "if they were invented today, it is highly unlikely they would be allowed onto the market."

The reason is that incandescent bulbs aren't primarily lights: they're heaters. Run electric current across the filament of an incandescent bulb and it gets so hot that it glows, giving off light. The rest of that heat energy is simply wasted. Compact fluorescent bulbs produce the same light but use 70 percent less energy.

Prescott notes:

It has been estimated that if every household in the US replaced just three of its incandescent light bulbs with energy-saving designs and used them for five hours per day, it would reduce emissions of carbon dioxide by 23 million tonnes, reduce electricity demand by the equivalent of 11 coal-fired power stations and save $1.8 billion [USD].

The trick, as he points out, is getting consumers to invest the higher initial costs for fluorescents. His reccomendations include banning incandescent bulbs and diverting subsidies for coal and nuclear power to reducing demand through more efficient bulbs.

The article also includes a comments section at the bottom, worth perusing for various points on the relative merits of the two lighting technologies.

Ryan McGreal, the editor of Raise the Hammer, lives in Hamilton with his family and works as a programmer, writer and consultant. Ryan volunteers with Hamilton Light Rail, a citizen group dedicated to bringing light rail transit to Hamilton. Ryan wrote a city affairs column in Hamilton Magazine, and several of his articles have been published in the Hamilton Spectator. His articles have also been published in The Walrus, HuffPost and Behind the Numbers. He maintains a personal website, has been known to share passing thoughts on Twitter and Facebook, and posts the occasional cat photo on Instagram.


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By Tayisha (anonymous) | Posted January 05, 2010 at 02:49:36

CFLs give off radiation, that is really healthy isn't it. Lighting a fireplace does not pollute anything, right? yes lets live like many years ago when there was no electricity. everyone surely will recycle. it is freezing here, i am not enjoying the global warming.

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By birdie (registered) | Posted January 05, 2010 at 09:21:13

^ what the hell are you talking about?

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