Light Bulb Madness: A New Case Study in Right Wing Misinformation

Wed, 2011-07-20 07:53Chris Mooney
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Light Bulb Madness: A New Case Study in Right Wing Misinformation

The examples of conservative misinformation—devoutly believed by followers, repeatedly asserted by ideological leaders and media outlets—are growing too numerous to count. I seriously cannot keep track any longer, and this is an area where I specialize.

A new one has cropped up: Call it light bulb madness. My sometime co-blogger Jon Winsor, FrumForum, and Joe Romm/Media Matters have all you want to know about it. Brief summary: Many conservatives, and conservative media outlets (Rush Limbaugh, Fox News) are claiming that a 2007 law about to take effect banned incandescent light bulbs, and thus rammed compact-fluorescents down our throats.

It’s the kind of cry virtually assured to make individualist-slash-free market conservatives angry: How dare the government  touch my freedoms? And it has even led to legislation to reverse the “ban,” sponsored by Texas’s Joe Barton.

Trouble is, there is no “ban.” Rather, the law required greater lighting efficiency, and some inefficient incandescents will accordingly be phased out beginning in January 2012, but you can still buy other versions. What has actually happened is that the legislation caused the lighting industry to retool and put more energy efficient incandescents on the market—and in fact, the industry wanted these standards in the first place.

Here are the facts, from David Jenkins of Frum Forum:

The bulb ban rhetoric is a deliberate misrepresentation of a provision of the 2007 Energy Independence and Security Act (ESIA) that sets efficiency standards for general-purpose screw-in incandescent light bulbs. The new standards—for what the industry calls “medium screw-based bulbs”—are set to take effect in January.

Major lighting manufacturers helped draft the new standards so that they could avoid a patchwork of state standards. They are fighting the repeal proposal because it threatens to strand the investments they have made to retool and produce lighting products that meet the standards.

In addition to claiming that the incandescent bulb is being banned and that we are all going to be forced to use compact fluorescent lighting (CFL), Barton is also saying that bulbs meeting the new standards are cost prohibitive.

Again, not true. A Philips incandescent bulb that meets the new standards currently sells for $1.49, lasts about 50 percent longer than older incandescent bulbs, and saves consumers more than $3.00 in energy expenditures. For four bucks you can buy an incandescent that lasts 3000 hours and nets you more than $10 in energy savings.

And here are the kinds of misrepresentations that are afoot, for instance from Fox News’s Forbes on Fox:

DAVID ASMAN (host): I hate fluorescent bulbs. They make me feel sick. They give me a headache. And when they break, they create all kinds of stuff — starting in just seven months from now, we won’t be able to buy an incandescent bulb.

VICTORIA BARRET, FORBES: I know. I’m actually hoarding the old-fashioned bulbs.

ASMAN: Me too.

BARRET: I went on and I bought, I’m not kidding, 80 of them, 80. It’s crazy, but I can’t stand the fluorescent stuff because it takes two minutes to warm up and by the time tow minutes have past, I’m out of my hallway. [Fox News, Forbes on Fox, 6/11/11]

Sadly, this stuff is a matter of course nowadays.

What can we do about it? The falsehoods come so fast and furious now, refuting them is almost meaningless. And minds don’t change if you do, anyways.

We need a much broader national conversation about the prevalence of misinformation, where it is coming from, and the psychological and media dynamics that generate it.

Don’t hold your breath.


Joe Romm … Media Matters …

Ah, yes, the Soros is strong with this one!

Follow the money.

You mean Darth Soros?

Evidence of inaccuracies or bias? Or how about just an opposing arguement? Or is this just the same old half-heated attempts at character assassination?

Funny how you don’t have a problem when D’Smogblog uses character assassination, in like, um … EVERY SINGLE ARTICLE?

“the legislation caused the lighting industry to retool and put more energy efficient incandescents on the market—and in fact, the industry wanted these standards in the first place”

Are you saying that the industry wanted higher efficiency standards but did not do anything about it until government forced them to? I don’t understand this. In a competitive marketplace higher efficiency is a selling point and an added value, its pure gold for a marketing manager. Any light bulb company should have been chomping at the bit to deliver a more efficient bulb. What is different about the light bulb business that this opportunity is passed up?

Oh by the way, there are so many places around the world which are banning and phasing out incandescent bulbs no wonder people think it is happening in the USA too.

Look here

That is not how I read it at all. I believe what he is saying that the industry wanted standardized regulation across country rather than a hidge-podge of state level efficiency standards that would complicate development and distribution. Repealing the legislation simply return us to the state-by-state regulation.

“-Are you saying that the industry wanted higher efficiency standards but did not do anything about it until government forced them to? I don’t understand this.-”

It’s called a collective action problem. The fact that you didn’t know what a collective action problem is speaks volumes.

Brilliant and the fact that you don’t seem to understand that added value is pure gold to a company speaks volumes as well. Only a Marxist would not understand this. Cheers.

RE Manufacturers wanting higher standards

They wanted higher profits!!
Which is fair enough, but no reason to be over obliging about granting their request:
Never trust manufacturers who -oddly- seek and welcome being told what
they are allowed to make!

Wise advice. There is something fishy about that isn’t there.

It is a collective action problem, in the same way that maintaining a cartel is a collective action problem.

Providing a better product, as perceived by consumers, is not ordinarily a collective action problem.

lebeh good future. thanks

We need a much broader national conversation about the prevalence of misinformation, where it is coming from, and the psychological and media dynamics that generate it. Don’t hold your breath.
If only we could get some genuine questions about which sources are trustworthy and which are manipulative - perhaps Rupert Murdoch and his company might be revealed to be in some large scandal involving corruption, collusion, crime and cover-up that would damage their reputation and perceived trustworthiness and lead to such questions…

It is a Ban -

Don’t believe the pro-regulation propaganda on this
- see the 2007 Energy Act

Not only a ban on simple incandescents starting 2012 (28% energy reduction reqd)
but also on ALL known incandescents by 2020 (67% energy reduction reqd),
including therefore the announced Philips etc “New Incandescents”
- which the politicians waving them around like to keep VERY quiet about.

The Energy Information Administration at Dept of Energy (see their press releases) also confirm that any lamp on the market in 2020
“will have to be as efficient as CFLs” by such time.

Unfortunately (or fortunately, depending on view!)
incandescents can’t technically be made to such energy usage,
and even if they could, the profit -seeking manufacturers behind the ban would be unlikely to pursue it given the high cost of such bulbs relative to more profitable CFLs/LEDs.

Of course, even during the time they’re allowed,
the Halogen etc replacements are not the same, are more expensive, and are hardly available (and only in smaller ranges) in post-ban EU and Australia.

More on the industrial politics behind the ban, with references and
copies of official communications .


1. Only c. 2% grid electricity saved, DOE etc data = with more relevant and significant alternatives.

2. No large power plant would be saved, even with supposed energy

3. Consumers as a whole hardly save MONEY - regardless of energy savings
Initial bulb cost + Utilities compensated for reduced sales.

So, not just in having to pay more for the light bulbs as an initial cost
(or being forced to pay for them, via taxpayer CFL programs)

- but also because electricity companies are being taxpayer subsidised
or allowed to raise Bill rates to compensate for any reduced
electricity use, as already seen both federally and in California, Ohio etc,
and before them in the UK and other European countries
( as referenced ) .

Reportedly, a member of the CIA first coined the term “the Mighty Wurlitzer,” which was a propaganda technique consisting of incessant repetition. Combined with that, we’re seeing the dynamic referred to as “incestuous amplification,” which the military coined to describe a type of groupthink process in which misinformation is recycled in a feedback loop. Apparently, this could merely be the result of an organizational dynamic in which divergent opinions are dis-incentivized, or it could refer to a situation in which an organization propagandizes itself – so to speak.

The information on the law regarding energy efficient light bulbs has been readily available so ignorance cannot be a valid excuse for all, particularly a politician with a staff who are tasked to research this information. Clearly then, for some, something akin to what I would call ‘willful ignorance’ is in play, beside alternatives such as simple deception or disbelief. There are some who are ignorant or naive acolytes but the willful ignorance dynamic is partly a choice of ideology and strategic considerations over empirical results. Like the legal term “willful blindness,” willful ignorance denotes a degree of implausible deniability, in the sense that a reasonable person who had done due diligence would not believe ‘that.’

I forgot to include these links

Normal incandescent light bulbs are 90% heat making devices, that also happen to put out a little light- 10%. This makes no sense.

Both our energy crisis and the need to reduce greenhouse gas emissions are reason enough to make the change, that will beneifit society as a whole, as well as the rest of the planet. That trumps your personal “freedom” any day of the week. It will also be an economic good.

Maybe you would still like lead in your paint, poisons in your water and air, acid rain killing lakes and forests, asbestos in your house, cars with no exhaust controls, no vehicle safety laws, speed limits, building codes etc, inefficient appliances and all the rest . That’s too bad. We have made improvements on these matters, because we as a people smartened up and made them happen.

Every man for himself is not freedom.

“Normal incandescent light bulbs are 90% heat making devices, that also happen to put out a little light- 10%. This makes no sense.”

It makes sense in my house where I heat the house in the winter with electric heat. Reversing the heat/light ratio from 90% heat and 10% light, to 10% heat 90% light makes no difference to my heat bill. Less light bulb heat is simply replaced by more heat emanating from my electric baseboards, the net effect is zero. Yet the CFL light bulbs are 15 times more expensive to buy than incandescent bulbs. Oh yea I forgot, it will ‘save the planet’. Lol!

Well good on you. Nice to see your volunteering to pay 3 x the price for heating to the power companies than you have too..

Using direct electicity for heating is almost exactly 100per cent efficient. 1kw of power produces about 1kw of heat.. Doesnt matter if its a $20 fan heater or a $2000 fancy smancy infra red panel device.

Using that same 1kW for a reverse cycle air conditioner (aka heat pump) is approx 300percent efficient.. 1kw of power allows 3kw of heat to be pumped from outside the house into it. (either from air, or ground coils if in extreme cold enivornments).

Then there is summer when running your 90percent heat producing lights is like having the air cond on, AND leaving your heaters on at the same time.

Whichever way you slice it, even on the personal economic level its just plain dumb. ;-)

Hello Peter C?
(and to some other CFL promoters here)

The light bulbs also give out light in case you forgot ;-)

The heating is just an extra benefit
- and when its dark its often cold

Summer heat?
No-one is forcing you to use incandescents!

Besides: There are other reasons for choosing lights than to save money - or to heat a house, ot to avoid paying extra when cooling it.

Maybe - just maybe - light quality comes into it too,
or the ability to choose transparescent light bulbs for appearance/effect, and so on.
(and the halogen etc incandescent alternatives are not the same, and will be banned too as in another comment here)

The point is not that CFLs are bad -
you should be perfectly free to use them, and glad you are happy.
Others should be allowed the same choice to use what they want, for electricity they pay for.

If the incandescent bulbs are still so bad - tax them, to help pay for cheaper CFLs.

“If the incandescent bulbs are still so bad - tax them, to help pay for cheaper CFLs.”

Um, I think you meant tax them to help pay for road repairs and subsidies for oil companies. That’s where green taxes are being spent in most places.

We’ve been looking into a heat pump systems for a couple of years now. The $8000 total cost has been a very large hurdle for us. It seems to be the best choice though, far better than solar panels and wind turbines.

In summer, the light bulbs aren’t on much, that’s an irrelevant point.

sailrick says:
“Normal incandescent light bulbs are 90% heat making devices, that also happen to put out a little light- 10%. ”

I say…. I dont care. Not one bit.
I am currently stockpiling incadecents and I will use them until something comes along that I like.

And I dont give one hoot what you, or greenpeace or the UN or any other environmentalist itiot group thinks about it.

I simple will not allow you eco-nazzies to tell me what I will buy. Period…

CFL bulbs are toxic bio hazards.
When you account for the desposal requirements of those dirty little things, the efficiency savings evaporate.

I simply refuse to buy them any more.

We’ve been using them for several years in our home. We bought ours in the local grocery store and they did not cost 15 times the old fashions bulbs…not even 10 times. PG&E and the local market discounted the price with the energy company making up the difference. It’s been a few years, but as I recall they were $1 each. It does take a few moments for the light to get up to speed, but after a minute the white light appears to be just the same. The savings on our electric bill has been about 20% or so each and every month.

PG and E company rates -and the bulbs - are being subsidised by you too ;-)

They are still $5 each where I live. We have no subsidies here.

It is what is called a no-brainer to use CFLs. Anybody who argues against that is just plain dumb or has an ulterior motive and it is a no-brainer to pick out those latter such as they who provide a falsely balanced unit cost comparison.

see above replies also to peter c …

CFLs really should be banned as a toxic bio hazard.

Only an idiot would allow them in their homes.
They are nearly as bad as Asbestos.

Hate to tell you this folks, but where I live if you use these CF bulbs in your home, it reduces the selling price of your home. I have spoken to two real estate salespeople about this and they tell me that prospective home buyers look for CF bulbs, if they see one in the home they will not buy the home, they are not interested. It’s the mercury.

The agents have to get the sellers to replace all of their CF bulbs before a buyer is allowed into the house to view it.

Ask yourself, if you knew the prevoius owner of a home has used these bulbs, and some probably have broken, what is that house worth to you now?

Lower property values, I kid you not.

With this in mind, how much do these bulbs really cost?

Wow. Light bulb madness indeed. I read the comments above, and am now dumber for having read them. A few more threads like this and I’ll be ready to believe that saving money on energy is a waste of money, that measurably reducing electric use is meaningless if its a small change, and that people using computers full of toxic metals (cadmium, chromium, lead, mercury, selenium, etc.) are actually afraid of the mercury in CFLs

Dispose of them properly folks, just like you drop off all your electronic waste to the depot, right? Right? No one is still throwing out old TVs and computers with the regular trash anymore, right?

Go look up the proper procedure for cleaning up a broken CFL.

You can put those pieces of crap in your home, but I wont.
They should be banned.

Ist is not disposing of them that is the problem, its breakeage. Once you break one in your home, you now have a mercury contaminated home. Good luck selling it.

Would you buy a mercury contaminated home? Not likely. Cheers


There are enough articles on the “myth of peak oil” floating around the Internet to fill a book; and there are enough books on the subject to fill a small library.  One of the common threads throughout these publications is their lack of credible sources, because not only is peak oil real, but we’re rapidly approaching that threshold. 

An example that is smacking the United...

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