Imagine you own a business. Times are hard. One employee has to go off the payroll. You've narrowed the layoff list to two.
One of the employees is four times as productive as the other. She can be a bit on the high-maintenance side, but her work ethic is superior she shows up early, goes home late, doesn't complain about weekend work, stays focused on task, and gets her assignments done on time and under budget.
The other employee has been around forever and is as familiar as an old shoe. However, he spends 90 percent of his energy on non-work tasks playing card games on his computer, checking the basketball scores, chatting up his buddies, and taking leisurely lunch breaks. Plus, he doesn't have much stamina he tends to roll in around 9:30 a.m. and is out the door at the stroke of 5 p.m.
Which one do you let go?
Seeking advice, you ask your friends at the Competitive Enterprise Institute (CEI), which is supposedly a hard-nosed voice of business. They tell you to dump the star and keep the bum. He costs more and does less, but he's, well, he's just better, that's all.
Times are hard. You can't afford to take such bad advice.
So, what's the point of this fanciful tale? The CEI, under the guise of a "grassroots" outfit called Freedom Action, has ginned up a campaign to repeal what it falsely calls a "bulb ban." There is no bulb ban. A 2007 federal law set tougher efficiency performance standards for general-purpose incandescent light bulbs. Manufacturers are taking the bulbs off the market and redeploying to produce lighting products that are less wasteful and last longer. That's their choice. Calling it a "bulb ban," however, economizes on the truth.
CEI likes the good ol' incandescent light bulb, which its campaign kickoff press release grudgingly admits is "somewhat less energy efficient" than the compact fluorescent light (CFL), which it blows off as having "many limitations and drawbacks." CEI also says the CFL is "considerably more expensive."
Whoa, there, partner. The incandescent is "somewhat less energy efficient?" How about spectacularly and stupidly less energy efficient? The incandescent squanders 90 percent of its input energy as waste heat. It poops out after only 1,000 hours.
And "considerably more expensive?" The CFL is four times more energy-efficient, meaning take note, hard-nosed business advocates at CEI it delivers four times as much value per dollar spent on energy. It also lasts 7 to 10 times as long.
Don't take my word for it. Let's ask a utility. And not a squishy liberal utility from one of the coastal states, but TXU Energy, which supplies electricity to patriotic, red state Texans. TXU helpfully links its customers to a Department of Energy website comparing a 25-watt CFL, costing $3.40, with a 100-watt incandescent, costing 60 cents.
According to CEI's dime-store arithmetic, the incandescent is the better buy. Well, sure, if all you're looking at is first costs. Take note, hard-nosed business advocates at CEI, households and businesses on a budget must consider life-cycle costs. Given that the CFL uses four times less energy and lasts longer, the simple comparison tells you that over a period of 4 and a half years, the CFL will save you $105.
What about lighting quality? A common complaint about CFLs is that their light isn't as pleasing as incandescents. That might have been true with early CFL models, but the products have improved. In 2007, Popular Mechanics performed a double-blind test of seven CFLs sort of a clinical study for light bulbs and found that they rated higher than incandescents in lighting quality.
How about mercury? Ideologues who have never given a rat's patooty about the environment before are going all Greenpeace on us now, railing that the specks of mercury in CFLs will poison the world. Once again, Popular Mechanics ran the numbers incandescents dump more mercury into the environment than CFLs because of all the coal that must be burned to supply power to those inefficient space heaters disguised as light bulbs.
Just be careful when the CFL eventually burns out. Unscrew it carefully, but don't throw it in the regular trash. Store it someplace safe and when you have time, take it to a Home Depot, which will recycle it for no charge. Or, ask your local waste hauler if it offers CFL recycling.
As for misleading rhetorical sludge spewing from those dim bulbs at the Competitive Enterprise Institute, the best disposal option is the delete button.
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