The dim bulb

The Covington News - - Opinion -

If only Thomas Edison had in­vented a dif­fer­ent light bulb. I speak of his in­can­des­cent bulb, one of the great­est in­ven­tions of the last 130 years. By send­ing an elec­tri­cal cur­rent through a thin fil­a­ment, which is sealed in a gas inside a bulb, light is pro­duced.

Sev­eral in­ven­tors worked on the con­cept un­til Edison pro­duced a car­bonized-bam­boo fil­a­ment that could last up to 1,200 hours. Thanks to him, the cheap, long-last­ing bulb was born.

Edison’s idea has been so wildly suc­cess­ful, we’ve taken it for granted for years. Be­cause in­can­des­cent bulbs are so cheap and plen­ti­ful, vir­tu­ally ev­ery home in Amer­ica has dozens of them. You walk into a room, flip a switch and, presto, let there be light!

But some folks aren’t happy with Edison’s bulb any­more. Ac­cord­ing to The­Wall Street Jour­nal, our Congress passed, and our pres­i­dent signed into law, an en­ergy bill that will kill off the old bulb within 12 years. The bill sets en­ergy-ef­fi­ciency stan­dards that the in­can­des­cent bulbs can­not meet.

Why would our gov­ern­ment kill off one of the most ef­fec­tive in­ven­tions in his­tory?

As elec­tric­ity passes through the fil­a­ment in the old bulb, you see, the fil­a­ment gets white hot and pro­duces light. That takes a lot of elec­tric­ity. The elec­tric­ity comes from the elec­tric com­pany, which burns coal to pro­duce it. Coal burn­ing emits nasty green­house gases into the at­mos­phere.

The Edison bulb, the ar­gu­ment goes, is con­tribut­ing to global warm­ing.

It’s bet­ter that we use more­ef­fi­cient flu­o­res­cent bulbs, halo­gens or LEDs, we’re told. The small flu­o­res­cent bulbs are french-fry-look­ing things that are filled with mer­cury va­por. When elec­tric­ity passes through the va­por, ul­tra­vi­o­let light is pro­duced.

The flu­o­res­cent bulb has its good points. It uses a fourth as much en­ergy as the old bulb. It lasts longer, too. Even though it costs up to six times as much, it saves dough in the long run.

But there’s a down­side. The flu­o­res­cent bulb has an odd flicker and glow. It lacks the warmth and charm of its in­can­des­cent pre­de­ces­sor.

Ac­cord­ing to the Tele­graph, the lit­tle buzzing gases inside the new bulb trig­ger mi­graines in some peo­ple. Folks with epilepsy and lu­pus may also be ad­versely af­fected.

Plus mer­cury is a poi­son. If the bulb breaks, mer­cury fumes will fill your house— not good for a fel­low who throws par­ties in which lamps are fre­quently knocked over.

I’m all for new in­ven­tions re­plac­ing old ones. Even­tu­ally one of the new bulb tech­nolo­gies will be su­pe­rior to Edison’s con­cept and peo­ple will flock to it.

But the gov­ern­ment doesn’t want us to wait that long. That’s be­cause a per­fect storm— a coali­tion of en­vi­ron­men­tal­ists, man­u­fac­tur­ers and politi­cians — came to­gether to seal our light-bulb fate for­ever.

En­vi­ron­men­tal­ists are aglow that the new bulbs will emit much less green­house gas into the en­vi­ron­ment.

Man­u­fac­tur­ers are even hap­pier. When the old 50-cent bulb is gone, con­sumers will have to pay up to $3 to buy the flu­o­res­cent one. The higher-cost bulb, says the Jour­nal, will con­ceiv­ably drive higher prof­its.

Politi­cians are the hap­pi­est of all. Since much of the pub­lic is con­vinced man is caus­ing the Earth to melt, folks will praise them for send­ing the old bulb to its grave.


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