Common Tragedies

Thoughts on Environmental Economics

Ban the bulb, but let’s not get carried away

Posted by Evan Herrnstadt on September 27, 2007

Matt Prescott posts on the Guardian’s Climate Change blog. Prescott is the founder of Ban the Bulb, an organization dedicated to outlaw incandescent blubs. He worries that the difficulties his cause has encountered are a bad omen:

If we cannot successfully implement a meaningful ban of incandescents light bulbs, where the win-win arguments are so overwhelmingly strong, how are we ever going to get stuck into banning other profligate technologies such as patio heaters, plasma screens that won’t turn off and sports cars that go three times the legal speed limit?

Is this a valid argument? Compact fluorescent lights are the clear economic choice over incandescents, but people continue to buy them. I sheepishly admit that my house has a stock of incandescents, and I base my decision on this (bad economist!). What about others? Is it because they are willing to pay for what they perceive to be a different quality of light? Do they see the higher sticker price on the CFL and grab ol’ reliable? Despite this specific case, I fail to accept that we really need to ban sports cars and more obvious energy guzzlers. Shouldn’t a sufficient carbon price, passed through by refineries and utilities, be sufficient? Please discuss, as the case of the light bulb has baffled me for a while.

P.S. Now that I’ve written this, I vow to change. Seems like an easy way to immediately reduce my footprint (and raging hypocrisy).

2 Responses to “Ban the bulb, but let’s not get carried away”

  1. Christin said

    Being one of the ‘bad economist’ in the house. I too will start using more efficient bulbs🙂

  2. Stine said

    I will not use a compact flourescent as long as the color rendering is so horrible (yes it is), that is why I still swear by incandescent or halogen!

    It is possible to make a compact flourescent with better color rendering so I don’t understand why it is not yet in production?

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