Friday, June 10, 2011

The Lights of Freedom Are Getting Dim

...This is not how the story was supposed to go. When compact fluorescent light bulbs were new, promoters sold them as a market-oriented, win-win proposition. They were like “lite” beer: the same great illumination, for a fraction of the electric bill.

But, as with beer, not everyone was convinced. Some consumers didn’t like the high out-of-pocket cost. (A basic CFL runs about three times the initial price of the equivalent incandescent.) Some didn’t like that bulbs could take a while to build up to full intensity.

Some didn’t like the occasional flicker. And a lot didn’t like the light. Its bluish cast lacks the warmth of traditional incandescents and gives skin tones a somewhat deathly tinge. “Fluorescent is just not attractive,” a resolute restaurant designer once told me. “I don’t care what they say.”

One serious technophile, University of Tennessee law professor Glenn Reynolds, spent much of 2007 flogging compact fluorescents on his popular Instapundit blog, eventually persuading more than 1,900 readers to swap 19,871 incandescent bulbs for CFLs. To this day, the Instapundit group is by far the largest participant at, a bulb-switching campaign organized by the consulting firm Symmetric Technologies. But Reynolds himself has changed his mind.

“I’m deeply, deeply disappointed with CFL bulbs,” he wrote last month on his blog. “I replaced pretty much every regular bulb in the house with CFLs, but they’ve been failing at about the same rate as ordinary long-life bulbs, despite the promises of multiyear service. And I can’t tell any difference in my electric bill. Plus, the Insta-Wife hates the light.”...

Here's more of Virginia Postrel excellent Bloomberg column.

See these previous Vital Signs Blog post also: About Those Toxic Mercury Bulbs: Will Nanny State Politicians See the Light?...Nanny State Light Bulbs -- It's a More Important Issue Than You Think...Among the Costs of Going Green -- Unemployment.