As some of you know, I've been experimenting with compact fluorescent light bulbs in my home to see whether they've progressed to the point where they are really ready to replace incandescent lights. CFLs have gotten quite a bit better in the past five years or so, and some of their old quirks have been muted or even banished. The advantages of CFLs, meanwhile, are obvious: they're many times more efficient than traditional incandescent bulbs.
That fact has led to a number of initiatives to speed adoption of CFLs, including power-company giveways of CFL bulbs and a green-tinged marketing push from Wal-Mart. All of this is good. Now, however, there's a bill in the California state assembly under which "incandescent light bulbs would be all but banned--phased out by 2012." Australia is making a similar move. These developments are probably what led GE to announce in advance its intention to ship a new, efficient type of incandescent bulb by 2010. GE no doubt wanted to influence pending legislation to leave room for more efficient incandescent lighting.
The question of the evening is: what should government's role in all of this be? Should there be laws banning specific lighting technologies? Should they instead mandate some kind of efficiency standard? Or, heck, wouldn't consumers naturally adopt more efficient lighting if it made good economic sense?
For my part, I've found that CFLs produce acceptable light quality in some cases, but not all. For example, they're OK when diffused by a lamp shade, but lousy when arrayed as floodlights in Damage Labs. I've taken to mixing incandescent bulbs and CFLs according to the quality of light needed and the way we tend to use the light. I'm not sure how one creates a legal mandate that accommodates such a sensible approach.
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