COLUMN: Lilley – They are coming for your light bulbs

- January 4th, 2013

Turn out the lights: Government should walk away from ban on incandescent bulbs

by Brian Lilley

The state has no business in the bedrooms of the nation, but apparently they have all kinds of business in every other room in our house.

If you are not aware, you have just one year left to buy real light bulbs before it becomes illegal to trade in Thomas Edison’s greatest-ever invention.

Starting next January, 75- and 100-watt incandescent light bulbs will become black market items, and by the end of 2014 the same will happen to 40- and 60-watt versions.

It’s all for the environment, though, so I’m sure it is a good thing.

The change was announced in 2007 by then-environment minister John Baird.

“Greenhouse gases are rising. The climate is changing. Winter is disappearing as we know it,” Baird said at the time.

Funny thing, as I write this, there is about four feet of snow atop my Ottawa roof and the temperature outside this morning was -25 C. Winter is not disappearing, scientists are increasingly questioning the official story on climate change and what exactly should be done and Canada has withdrawn from Kyoto. But Baird’s bulb ban remains.

The government claims the bulb ban is technology neutral, but the net effect is the light bulbs we have used for generations and once produced here in Canada, or in the United States, will now be replaced with compact fluorescents and LEDs from China.

Forget for a moment the “carbon footprint” caused by shipping all of our light bulbs in from China and consider whether this really is the best move. First there are the concerns about how the light looks.

As a man, this was never something that I thought of — light is light — but shortly after this ban was announced, I started hearing from women who will swear that fluorescents and LEDs produce a colder light, a less flattering light.

“I don’t like reading by the cadaver light or looking like a lizard in bed,” a friend e-mailed me recently.

The environmentalists would dismiss that as a vanity concern and nothing we should endanger the planet over, but what about our health concerns? I’ve had several CFL bulbs break in my house, including one that melted in the socket in my children’s playroom.

Have you seen the instructions on how they must be cleaned? Here are some of the steps recommended by Health Canada:

n Remove people and pets from the room and keep them out of the room during the cleanup process.

n Ventilate the room for at least 15 minutes prior to starting cleanup by opening windows and doors to the outdoors.

n Do not use a vacuum to clean up the initial breakage, as it will spread the mercury vapour and dust throughout the area and may contaminate the vacuum.

n Place the broken glass and cleanup materials in a glass container with a tight-fitting lid to further minimize the release of mercury vapour.

Ventilate for 15 minutes? Don’t vacuum? Seal materials? It’s a wonder they don’t tell us to call in a HazMat team with their white suits!

The decision to ban incandescent bulbs was a political attempt to make it look like the Harper government was acting to fulfil our Kyoto commitments. We walked away from Kyoto and we should walk away from the ban as well.

Of course, that would have environmentalists screaming blue murder but then again, they dismissed the move as insignificant when Baird announced it six years ago.

Categories: Contributor Columns

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13 comments

  1. Joe Cabral says:

    Funny! I was visiting Parliament building in October and guess what type of bulbs I saw them using. You guessed it.

  2. Traditional light bulbs says:

    It sure is tough on older people having to replace lamps that are not designed for the spiral bulbs.

  3. William says:

    The coldest Ottawa was this morning was minus 15, not minus 25. Also, four feet of snow is 100cm. Ottawa has recieved just under half that amount so far this winter, which is actually a little below average. It is no secret that the earth is gradually warming up. The debate is over what is causing it to warm up.

  4. Mike boreland says:

    With any luck at all, this too will be re-thought and placed in scrap heap of bad ideas.

  5. KenE says:

    The best thing about incandescent lamps….price was good…colour was good…..no hazard,period….and in the winter people have a lot of lights on because its dim most of the time….the heat from these lamps have to be replaced….in the spring and fall they produce enough heat to keep the furnace at bay….and in the winter it helps both ways…heat and light…people always had very few lights on in the warm months…..our government never thought about this ban to begin with….but they liked the junk science about global warming….and yes we have climate change….every day….some much for that s**t….////

  6. Alain says:

    This has absolutely nothing to do with the role and mandate of the federal government; it is pure nanny state. So in the name of whatever we have a so-called conservative government seeking to impose inefficient (they do not work in very cold temperatures and do not provide sufficient light), dangerous, made in China light bulbs. Should one of these break, you are at serious health risk to say nothing of the danger they represent for the environment.

  7. Elinor Rose says:

    I enjoyed this column and your segment on Sun News with Ben Shapiro. Are you aware of the way consumers are avoiding the incandescent ban here in North America? Do an internet search on “rough service incandescent bulbs”. Incandescent bulbs designated for “rough service” do not fall under the regulations and they come in all the wattages and bulb types consumers normally have in their homes. They are made to tolerate tougher conditions (the vibrations in a garage door opener, for example, and uses in industrial settings). There are several USA based companies that make them and you can order them via the internet. I also understand that some British manufacturers are producing rough service bulbs in order to get around the EU ban. This might make for a good follow-up story.

    Thanks from a reader and viewer in Tennessee.

  8. Brian Lilley says:

    Hey William, you are welcome to come measure the snow on my roof. Bring your own ladder.
    As for the temperature this is a column from today’s newspapers and I wrote it on Thursday when the morning temp was -25.
    You like the bulbs then go ahead and use them but don’t use the force of government to regulate the lights in my home.

  9. Paul says:

    About the ban on light bulbs.
    Never mind all the namby pamby environmental stuff and the fact that the mercury will likely make us blind any way , there are much more real life implications.

    I live north of Elliot Lake and stay here year round as do many other people. One hundred watt light bulbs are an essential part of our winter survival. The light bulbs are unbeatable as a reliable , safe and dare I say it, energy efficient way to heat crawl spaces, place where water pipes tend to freeze, like hanging down behind the washing machine. I have a remote water pump house that is very small and well insulated and is kept warm and safe from freezing with nothing more than two one hundred watt light bulbs. I seriously do not know how to effectively keep this shed warm in any other practical safe cheap way.
    A small space heater will burn or set fire to anything too close to it and will not work in confined spaces plus it uses more power in ten minutes than the light bulbs do in a week.
    There is surprisingly much more to the humble incandescent light bulb than just seeing in the dark.
    I certainly hope that the politicians “see the light” before it is too late.

  10. DWIGHT ASHE says:

    MY SUGGESTION IS: STOCKPILE AS MANY 100WATT BULBS AS YOU CAN AFFORD TIL THEY BAN THEM…

  11. Paul says:

    Great, an illegal stockpile of 100 watt light bulbs stashed in my shed. I can just see a MNR or RCMP swat team storming through the door screaming “Step away from the light bulb”

  12. John says:

    Wow, and people wonder why Sun has a poor reputation w.r.t. quality of new stories:

    - Scientists are increasingly questioning the “official story”? Really? Sure you can always find one or two, but the vast majority of scientists are convinced that the rapid global warming we are experiencing is from human made greenhouse gases. I know you can find some that doubt this, but for every one that doubt, there are 25-100 that are on the side of global warming. That said, there are other issues with CO2 concentration beyond just warming that present dangers.

    - Since you feel qualified to write about climate change, you should know that a) More snowfall can result an increase in global temperatures due to higher moisture in the atmosphere and b) A one time -25C event does not make a trend. Average annual temps in Ottawa have been trending up for some time. How is that Rideau canal been working out for skating the last several years?

    - Quoting “cadaver light” or “lizard in bed” from a “friend” as a reliable comment is just silly. Does your friend buy good quality bulbs? Was this comment made w.r.t. a warm white fluorescent similar to an incandescent bulb or w.r.t. a cool white? Does your friend know the difference? Without looking at the bulb directly, most people can’t tell the difference between a good warm white CFL and an incandescent bulb. That said, there is nothing magically “great” about incandescent light, it is just what we are used to.

    - Whether CFL bulbs came into existence or not, incandescent manufacturing in North America would have stopped (much like most low cost volume manufacturing). Agreed that CFLs are not produced here, but this is a mute point as that is not really your assertion.

    - Carbon footprint from shipping. Are you serious? What does a light bulb weigh? To last point, the incandescent was not going to be made here anyway. So at least we are shipping one bulb instead of 6-10 bulbs or 25 bulbs in the LED replacement case. Over the life of that CFL, GHG reductions are measured in 100′s of kilograms. This is way more than what it take to ship.

    - To the comments about the heating benefits of bulbs. Coal/Gas plants are 30-50% efficient converting energy to electricity. Then there are losses in transmission. This compares to typical 90% efficiency of a gas furnace. Queue the arguments about that depends on the generation. Not really. Most of our grid is interconnected and low GHG base load tends to be very cheap (i.e. Quebec) and when it is not used locally, it is sold to display high GHG generation. I can see where a low wattage “heater” is useful.

    - Disposal is an issue and Health Canada will follow a conservative approach, but really is it that onerous? It 10+ years of CFL usage I have broken one. I think most people are most careful now as well. It is certainly best to dispose properly, but even put into the waste stream, the environmental mercury is lower than that from energy production.

  13. Canuck66 says:

    John, if you wish to blindly accept the propaganda from all the global warmists, be my guest. But don’t foist second-rate products on the rest of us as a solution for an imaginary problem. Use your curly bulbs to your heart’s content – no doubt powered by wind power – but leave those of us who live in the real world to our own devices.

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