Wednesday, September 08, 2010

Turn Out the Lights: Green Regulation Causes U.S. Light Bulb Factory to Close, 200 Jobs Are Gone

From today's Washington Post, a good example of the Law of Unintended Consequences:

"During the recession, political and business leaders have held out the promise that American advances, particularly in green technology, might stem the decades-long decline in U.S. manufacturing jobs. But as the lighting industry shows, even when the government pushes companies toward environmental innovations and Americans come up with them, the manufacture of the next generation technology can still end up overseas.

What made the plant here vulnerable is, in part, a 2007 energy conservation measure passed by Congress that set standards essentially banning ordinary incandescents by 2014. The law will force millions of American households to switch to more efficient bulbs.

The resulting savings in energy and greenhouse-gas emissions are expected to be immense. But the move also had unintended consequences. Rather than setting off a boom in the U.S. manufacture of replacement lights, the leading replacement lights are compact fluorescents, or CFLs, which are made almost entirely overseas, mostly in China."

30 Comments:

At 9/08/2010 12:02 PM, Blogger geoih said...

It's also a pretty good way for China to export a lot of mercury to the US.

 
At 9/08/2010 12:12 PM, Blogger morganovich said...

the spanish already demonstrated that every green job they created lost them 2.2 other jobs.

http://www.juandemariana.org/pdf/090327-employment-public-aid-renewable.pdf

i can see no reason why it would be different in the US.

 
At 9/08/2010 12:29 PM, Blogger threecollie said...

And those new light bulbs are so wonderful...not

 
At 9/08/2010 1:21 PM, OpenID kkarmkh said...

Sorry, I don't have sympathy for the 200 jobs. Good businesses adapt, no matter what. Make new products to meet market demand or go out of business.

 
At 9/08/2010 1:35 PM, Blogger Benjamin said...

200 jobs go overseas to a Chinese factory? And now we cry about it?

As opposed to the several million jobs before?

 
At 9/08/2010 1:54 PM, Blogger Buddy R Pacifico said...

From The New York Times: "How many psychiatrists does it take to change a light bulb? One but the bulb must want to change?"

Several issues come to mind:

Why does the Chinese light bulb industrialist have to wait for government susbsides to build a plant in the U.S.?

Do rare earth export restrictions by China apply when they are used in the manufacture of light bulbs in China for Export?

Why can't the U.S. Congress let consumers decide what type of light bulbs to buy?

 
At 9/08/2010 2:54 PM, Blogger juandos said...

"Why can't the U.S. Congress let consumers decide what type of light bulbs to buy?"...

Well Buddy R, follow the politics:

Scientist's Firing After 36 Years Fuels 'PC' Debate at UCLA

Here's one of the reason why the professor was 'de-tenured' if you will:

California's Diesel Regulations Are Hot Air

Regarding Congress:

CONGRESS BANS INCANDESCENT BULBS IN FAVOR OF POISONOUS CFLs: Duped by global warming madness (w/video)

 
At 9/08/2010 3:05 PM, Blogger bobble said...

"Why does the Chinese light bulb industrialist have to wait for government susbsides to build a plant in the U.S.?"

because that's how the chinese do business. you think he's not being subsidized now, by china?

 
At 9/08/2010 3:36 PM, Blogger QT said...

"The resulting savings in energy and greenhouse-gas emissions are expected to be immense."

Are you sure about that?

 
At 9/08/2010 5:07 PM, Blogger Paul said...

Benji,

"200 jobs go overseas to a Chinese factory? And now we cry about it?
As opposed to the several million jobs before?"

We're also crying about the millions of jobs lost under your boyfriend.

 
At 9/08/2010 6:12 PM, Blogger juandos said...

Ahhh QT excellent link lady, most excellent!

I've got to pass that little nugget onto others...

Thanks...

 
At 9/08/2010 6:14 PM, Blogger Ron H. said...

"The resulting savings in energy and greenhouse-gas emissions are expected to be immense."

"Are you sure about that?"

Good point, QT, thanks for the link.

Another point seldom mentioned when the subject of "waste heat" from incandescent bulbs is discussed, is the fact that the heat may mot be wasted, but can help offset the need for energy from other sources used to heat your house in cold weather.

 
At 9/08/2010 6:16 PM, Blogger Buddy R Pacifico said...

Juandos, excellent and interesting links, thanks.

Bobble, I wonder if GE light bulb plants in China are subsidised because of their exports to the U.S.?

 
At 9/08/2010 7:08 PM, Blogger PeakTrader said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

 
At 9/08/2010 7:08 PM, Blogger PeakTrader said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

 
At 9/08/2010 7:08 PM, Blogger PeakTrader said...

Ernest Istook calls himself a "recovering Congressman" from Oklahoma.

Congress’ Light Bulb Law: Not So Bright
by Ernest Istook
10/19/2009

Thank goodness I’m not imagining it. Others also have big problems with the new-fangled light bulbs Congress is forcing on us.

My eyes are straining from bulbs that aren’t as bright. What IS lighter is my wallet, because the new bulbs cost so much more.

And they’re being sold under false pretenses. I paid about $5 for a new bulb advertised to save me money by lasting seven years. It burned out in three weeks.

Preach to me all you want about longer-life, energy savings, comparative lumens, or the scientific study of your choice. But don’t expect me to believe anything that contradicts personal experience.

My complaints are widely-held but poorly-publicized. Buried in the back pages are details about the new bulbs: poorer quality lighting; overstated claims of long life; and that they’re mostly (80%) made in China.

I’ve always shopped for sales on packs of four incandescent bulbs, paying only 67 cents a pack just a year ago. That’s under 17 cents per bulb, whether I picked 60-watt, 75-watt or 100-watt. Now the new curlicue-bulbs (yes, I know the correct name is compact fluorescent bulb -- CFLs -- but I go by the shape) average about $3.50. For a single bulb, not a package.

As one wholesale light bulb website notes, a standard markup is 30% for the wholesaler, plus 30% for the retailer. That yields immensely bigger profits on a $3.50 bulb than on a 17-cent bulb.

Those multi-year guarantees? Fine print reveals that’s if you only burn them 3 hours a day. Must I ration my time to stay less than 3 hours in each room of my home? And that still doesn’t explain bulbs that conk out in three weeks. One lighting showroom reports that the “seven-year” bulbs tend to last six months under normal conditions.

Even if a seven-year-bulb lasts only two, good luck locating your receipt and finding a store that will give a refund after more than 90 days. I didn’t mind a bulb that costs 17 cents burning out, but my expectations and frustrations rise with the price.

It used to be easy to buy a light bulb -- grab and go. Now I join shoppers hunched over in the light-bulb aisle, trying to decipher the fine print of the new-fangled bulbs, making my eye strain even worse. Can I solve my problems if I focus on lumens? Color temperature? Or the wattage? Supposedly, the best guide is a CRI (Color Rendering Index) of 85 to 90 -- but it’s usually omitted because most bulbs fall far short.

Siminovitch (director of the California Lighting Technology Center at the University of California, Davis) says buyers need to do more research (more hours in that store aisle!): “If you would go into any hardware store and buy an incandescent lamp, they’re all virtually exactly the same. That’s the strength of that technology. They all look the same, they all work the same and they all have great color. The only problem with them is they’re very inefficient.”

He’s talking about energy converted to heat. But in winter, when bulbs are used the most, that very heat is an asset that reduces home heating bills.

On top of all this, there are miscellaneous hassles. New bulbs don’t always fit under a lampshade. They don’t usually work with a dimmer switch. The new bulbs are ugly. Curlicues wreck the appeal of decorative bulbs shaped like flames or globes. And CFLs contain mercury, a hazardous waste, so the EPA wants you to discard them only according to its guidelines.

If the new light bulbs were so good, they would sell themselves. They wouldn’t need government to force them on us. That’s how Thomas Edison did it with his invention. We should follow his enlightening example.

 
At 9/08/2010 7:46 PM, Blogger PeakTrader said...

Taxes on a family of three in Connecticut (doesn't include higher prices from regulations and wasted time complying with taxes and regulations):

Adding It Up: How Much Tax Does A Taxpayer Pay?
September 8, 2010

Harlan and Tess Milkove, who met during their freshman year of college, are both 26 years old and both work as engineers. They own a home in Stratford, and they have an 8-month-old son, Ethan.

We tally up state and federal income tax, social security and Medicare taxes using data from their 2009 returns. These taxes, taken out of their paychecks each month, account for more than three-quarters of the Milkoves' tax burden.

The property tax on their home comes to just under $5,000. And in Connecticut, they also have to pay property tax on their two cars.

"Car tax due is $433.84, and Tess' is $395.52," Milkove says, reading from the bills. "It's like an extra car payment for each car — comes out pretty close."

Connecticut residents pay 60.3 cents per gallon in state and federal gas taxes. For the Milkoves, who use about 1,200 gallons a year, that adds up to just over $700.

They don't smoke, but if they did, they'd pay more than $4 a pack in taxes. They do drink, a little. We figure they pay about $65 a year in alcohol excise taxes.

Aside from groceries and clothing, most purchases are taxed at 6 percent. The sales tax grand total for the year is $400.

The Milkoves are going on a couple of short vacations, so we add in hotel taxes, rental car taxes and about $85 worth of taxes on just two round-trip plane tickets. Then we dig into their phone bills and find yet more taxes.

"There's a public safety communications surcharge, county sales tax, state telecom excise tax," Milkove says, reading from his phone bill. The cell phone and home phone bills both are about 20 percent tax.

When the Tax Foundation looks at this larger picture, it finds that Americans on average pay 28 percent of their income to taxes — though it varies widely by income.

The Milkoves, it turns out, are paying just over 24 percent.

 
At 9/08/2010 8:16 PM, Blogger Rick said...

Yawn. What is all this fuss about. An inefficient 100+ year old technology and 200 jobs? This sounds like the same crowd that was complaining when the last buggy whip factory closed.

 
At 9/08/2010 8:19 PM, Blogger Rick said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

 
At 9/08/2010 10:47 PM, Blogger Ron H. said...

"Yawn. What is all this fuss about. An inefficient 100+ year old technology and 200 jobs?"

Well, Rick, I believe the fuss isn't so much about the 100 year old technology or the 200 jobs, as it is about the fact that the loss is only due to government meddling, not market forces. Unlike your example of buggy whips which no longer had a market, incandescent bulbs are still a perfectly servicable tchnology.

It appears that the new technology isn't an improvement after all, just more expensive, and wouldn't be on the market if it weren't for government mandates.

 
At 9/09/2010 12:23 AM, Blogger juandos said...

"Bobble, I wonder if GE light bulb plants in China are subsidised because of their exports to the U.S.?"...

Not really a silly question considering the Obama administration track record...

U.S. Government Loaned Mexican Government More Than $1 Billion to Drill Oil in Gulf of Mexico Last Year; Has $1 Billion More Planned For This Year

 
At 9/09/2010 3:09 AM, Blogger Tim Worstall said...

Re the mercury and rare earths question (it's terbium the bulbs mostly use).

The charges (that mixture of mercury and rare earths) are made in the US and then exported to China from a company in Illinois.

Last time I got the figures from that customer of mine they were making the charges for a billion bulbs a year.

 
At 9/09/2010 10:22 AM, Blogger QT said...

Peak,

Energy converted to heat might help in winter but doesn't one also have to factor in increase air conditioning costs in summer?

There are a number of problems with CFLs (curly ones with A lamp bases). The design incorporates the ballast into each light bulb in order to adapt the technology to conventional incandescent fixtures. Premature failure is due to ballast failure which is accelerated by enclosed fixtures. This product is essentially designed as a stop gap measure.

If one looks at CFLs used in fixtures built for that purpose, the product is significantly better than the twirly CFL. The ballast is in the fixture rather than the light bulb. Advantages include:

greater efficacy (lumens per watt)
improved colour rendering
can be used in an enclosed fixture
far better light distribution than curly CFLs

The disadvantages:

capital cost to replace all fixtures in your home with the likelihood that this technology may be supplanted by LED or another technology in a few years

lighting does not represent the lion's share of energy consumption; replacing lighting fixtures is not going to generate significant energy savings unlike other measures that one can take ie. insulating your home, replacing an old furnace with a high efficiency one.

Fluorescent lighting is temperature sensitive; cold temperatures decrease lumen output; there are CFLs developed to overcome this problem just as there are special CFLs that can be dimmed....and of course, they cost more.

The problem with banning light bulbs is that the government has chosen to back a stopgap technology that is very expensive and will not generate the desired outcome, significant energy savings. The consumer is being sold a product at a very high price that generates poor ambient light, absymal color rendering, and inconsistent bulb life. The Energy Star program for appliances has been much more effective in generating electricity savings.

 
At 9/09/2010 11:12 AM, Blogger Buddy R Pacifico said...

Tim Worstall, thanks for the info on terbium. I had no idea it was mixed with mercury to make charges for the bulbs.

Look at the price rise of terbium since China announced export restrictions. One year price chart for terbium. The Chicago company may have to set up shop in China to get a competitve price.

 
At 9/09/2010 12:09 PM, Blogger PeakTrader said...

QT, days are longer in the summer, and sunnier. So, (heat producing) light bulbs are used less in the summer than in the winter.

From article:

"If you live near the equator, day and night are nearly the same length (12 hours). But elsewhere on Earth, there is much more daylight in the summer than in the winter. The closer you live to the North or South Pole, the longer the period of daylight in the summer."

 
At 9/09/2010 2:22 PM, Blogger QT said...

Peak,

I agree that days are longer and that the use of natural daylight can help to lower lighting requirements. Unfortunately, skylights and windows imply far more significant source of seasonal heat gain/loss than lightbulbs.

Additionally, task lighting requires higher levels of illumination than are afforded by windows. My office light is on most of the day...is yours?

 
At 9/09/2010 6:54 PM, Blogger PeakTrader said...

QT, I agree, incandescent bulbs tend to have small effects on indoor heating or cooling compared to other sources, including the weather outside.

 
At 9/09/2010 8:18 PM, Blogger Ron H. said...

"QT, I agree, incandescent bulbs tend to have small effects on indoor heating or cooling compared to other sources, including the weather outside."

However...unless you maintain the inside of your house at a temperature that is lower than the overall average temperature outside your house, you are likely spending more energy heating your house than cooling it. So, although tiny, the additional amount of heat from incandescent bulbs is a net benefit, not a net cost.

 
At 9/10/2010 8:57 AM, Blogger QT said...

Ron H.,

Will concede that the heat from incandescents is a net benefit. Was perhaps, playing devil's advocate re: air conditioning.

Agree that BTUs generated by incandescent lighting as well as from people help to offset heating requirements & do save energy.

 
At 9/10/2010 9:43 PM, Blogger juandos said...

Behold The Great Light Bulb Scam!


are cfl - compact flourescent light bulbs - a scam (video clip)

 

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