Beginning today, it is a crime to manufacture or ship for sale a traditional 75-watt incandescent light bulb in the European Union. Autocrats in Brussels last year declared war on Edison’s greatest invention with a ban on 100-watt lamps. Homes throughout the Old World will continue to dim until incandescent lighting of all types is snuffed out in 2012 - the same year the United States is scheduled to begin a phaseout schedule mirroring the European plan.
The EU’s final solution to the incandescent problem was sparked by bureaucratic irritation at a public that refused to accept the pale, flickering, cold light emanating from government-approved, expensive compact fluorescent bulbs. “Although energy-saving bulbs have been clearly labeled since 1998 as the most cost-effective bulbs, their relatively high purchase price has inhibited take-up,” the European Commission website explains. “To remedy this, EU governments and the European Parliament asked the Commission to adopt minimum requirements phasing out the least-efficient bulbs.”
Consumers realize the warm glow of a cheap incandescent is superior in every way to the deadly, mercury-filled substitute being foisted upon them. In Finland, Helsingin Sanomat reported that the new ban has not resulted in a surge of sales for the new bulbs that the bureaucrats expected. Instead, 75-watt packages have been flying off the shelves as customers filled their closets, garages and attics with lighting supplies for the long term. Such hoarding has been the rule for more than a year. London’s Daily Mail gave away 25,000 of the 100-watt bulbs as a prize in a January 2009 contest. Der Spiegel reported that German customers left hardware stores with carts jammed with enough incandescent bulbs to last 20 years.
We can look forward to a similar reaction on these shores as our own Jan. 1, 2012, deadline approaches. President George W. Bush’s signature on the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007 condemned the traditional bulb in favor of the fluorescent lights rejected by the free market. Only eight senators and 100 House members opposed the bill.
There is still hope that sanity could return before the U.S. ban on normal light bulbs takes effect. Two years ago, New Zealanders faced an imminent ban. The National Party, at the time in the minority, made overturning the light-bulb scheme a priority in its campaign against the ruling Labor government. The public responded favorably to the party that proclaimed that it “stands for freedom, choice, independence and ambition.” In December 2008, the National Party government overturned the light-bulb ban. Republican challengers seeking an edge over Democrats in November could learn a few things from the Kiwis.