A Bright Idea: Ban the Bulb


Over at the BBC's Green Room, Dr. Matt Prescott has a bright idea: ban traditional incandescent light bulbs. Their replacements would be TreeHugger-friendly compact fluorescents, which, Dr. Prescott notes, "produce[s] the same amount of light as an incandescent light bulb whilst being responsible for the emission of 70% less carbon dioxide. It also saves money; about £7 ($12) per year in the UK, more or less in other countries depending on electricity prices. They waste so much energy that if [incandescents] were invented today, it is highly unlikely they would be allowed onto the market." Further, "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 $1.8bn." Sounds pretty good to us; how are we going to achieve this?
Dr. Prescott wants the price of light bults to include the full environmental costs of carbon emissions and pollution; this could be accomplished through a tax on bulbs according to their energy use. The tax level would vary between countries; in the UK, "a rate of one penny per watt, or £1 ($1.77) per bulb, should suffice." We mentioned this "sin tax" idea for the UK last week, which pretty much went over like a lead balloon, though the study's results suggest that the bulk of UK residents think small changes in their domestic lives can make a difference in the health of the planet.

This taxation program would generate funds that could be used to further invest in energy efficient technologies, but the movement would need some cash to get off the ground. Dr. Prescott thinks the answer is in the government: "Given the huge subsidies awarded to the nuclear industry and to coal production in western nations, it is clear that the funds necessary to provide a financial kick-start certainly exist. In 2002, the UK government spent £410m on bailing out its near-bankrupt nuclear sector. That would be more than enough to supply every household in Britain with three energy-saving light bulbs." He concludes, "If we cannot deny ourselves incandescent light bulbs, which would require minimal sacrifice, how are we ever going to do the really difficult things such as cutting our reliance on fossil fuels, buying smaller cars or reducing our use of finite natural resources? Ending the life of this inefficient and obsolete technology is not enough to prevent damaging climate change; but it is an easy first step, and one the world should not hesitate to take." To this end, he has founded banthebulb.org to encourage and promote energy efficiency.

We think this a fabulous idea. As we have noted time and again, alternative energy and energy efficiency won't happen overnight, and whatever small changes we can make on a large scale will help get the ball rolling. With this particular solution, we'd all use less power, spew fewer climate-changing emissions and spend less money. It's a win-win-win situtation. ::Ban The Bulb via ::BBC