A Black Market for 100-Watt Bulbs? U.S. Ban Looms

Got any old lamps? Photo by Olle Svensson, via Flickr.

Few people seem to know that 100-watt incandescent bulbs, the Thomas Edison-type, are leaving store shelves. They were phased out in California on Jan. 1, and will be phased out across the U.S. on Jan. 1, 2012. That's less than a year away. Which makes you wonder, will people hoard the old 100-watt bulbs? Will there be a black market for retro illumination? There are people who scoff at global warming or just aren't as happy with energy-efficient, low-watt alternatives like CFLs and LEDs. Complaints include: They don't give off as much light, won't fit in my light fixture and take too long to warm up. On the other hand, isn't a little inconvenience worth it, to help reduce energy use and greenhouse gases from coal-fired power? (That last question doesn't apply to the scoffers). Yes, CFLs contain a tiny drop of mercury, but they keep more of it out of the environment.

The Phaseout
The U.S. will phase out most traditional bulbs by 2014, as required under the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007. Some legislators have threatened a repeal of the light-bulb ban. Maybe after health care.

There's a ray of light in this one for folks who want an alternative to CFLs or LEDs: Halogen lights. In California, and later the U.S., the new law will require light bulbs to use 72 watts or less. The 72-watt replacement is designed to provide the same amount of light, or lumens, using less energy, at a similar upfront cost. Halogens are basically refined incandescents, the Sylvania people explain.

Survey Says
A recent survey found that 19% of people knew about the upcoming death of the 100-watt, the first traditional bulb to be phased out in the U.S. That 19 percent is up a whopping 1 (one) percent from a 2009 survey, according to USA Today.

So once more people find out, as they're bound to in news reports throughout 2011, will they start stocking up? Will it be like The Sponge, or more recently, Four Loko?

The Predictions
People have been predicting black markets for years with bans on bulbs in other places, like the European Union and Australia. For sure, there's almost always a way to get something that's illegal or banned. See drugs. Or some Internet commerce.

But the U.S. ban will lower energy use, greenhouse gas emissions and consumer bills. And most people will just buy and use the greener bulbs, some reluctantly. And technology will improve. And future bulbs will get better.

Get Over It
So don't whine. Don't hoard. Get in the game. Cut your energy use, save your money. And move on to bigger things. Need a few ideas? See below. Already agree? Thanks. The California Energy Commission predicts the phase out in that state will eliminate the sale of 10.5 million 100-watt bulbs a year and save consumers $35.6 million in energy bills.

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How to Go Green: Alternative Energy
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Tags: California | Compact Fluorescent Light Bulbs | Lighting