Thursday, July 30, 2009

Light Bulb Socialism and a Call for Civil Disobedience

In Europe, fighting the state has reached the level of light bulb ownership.

An EU ban, adopted in March, calls for the gradual replacement of traditional light bulbs with supposedly more energy-efficient compact fluorescent bulbs (CFL). The first to go, on Sept. 1, will be 100-watt bulbs. Bulbs of other wattages will then gradually fall under the ban, which is expected to cover all such bulbs by Sept. 1, 2012.

The EU's ban was originally meant to help it reach its economically illiterate targets on energy "efficiency" and climate "protection". Though much cheaper to buy, incandescent bulbs have long been seen as wasteful by those who think supply and demand curves only work when bent by the state.

Not surprisingly, in creating the legislation, the EU failed to address consumer preferences. For example, many have complained that the light emitted by a CFL bulb is colder and weaker and that its high-frequency flickering can cause headaches.

Many complain that the lights are just not bright enough and that they falsify colors.

Germans are attempting to fight the ban by stockpiling the soon to be banned bulbs.

Spiegel Online reports:

,,,many have mocked the light bulb legislation as just another example of an EU bureaucracy gone wild. Holger Krahmer, for example, a Member of the European Parliament (MEP) from Germany's business-friendly FDP party has accused the EU of imposing 'light bulb socialism."

Hardware stores and home-improvement chains in Germany are seeing massive increases in the sales of the traditional bulbs. Obi reports a 27 percent growth in sales over the same period a year ago. Hornbach has seen its frosted-glass light bulb sales increase by 40-112 percent. When it comes to 100-watt bulbs, Max Bahr has seen an 80 percent jump in sales, while the figure has been 150 percent for its competitor Praktiker.

"It's unbelievable what is happening," says Werner Wiesner, the head of Megaman, a manufacturer of energy-saving bulbs. Wiesner recounts a story of how one of his field representatives recently saw a man in a hardware store with a shopping cart full of light bulbs of all types worth more than €200 ($285). "That's enough for the next 20 years."

.... The EU law only forbids producing and importing incandescent bulbs but does not outlaw their sale

The aesthetic issue is a powerful one. For Munich-based lighting designer Ingo Maurer, the CFL bulbs are ushering in a decrease in the quality of life. "We recommend protests against the ban, civil disobedience and the timely hoarding of lighting implements," Maurer told SPIEGEL. He also adds that he believes the ban might drive more people to use more candles, which are about as bad as you can get in terms of energy efficiency



  1. In the face of such stockpiling by what can only be described as "Eco-Terrorists-cum-criminals", I guess the next move will be forced entry of private residences by State armed militia with the intention of uncovering all traditional light bulbs still in use after the start of sales ban.

    Seems reasonable to me ....

  2. Another example of an idea that is so logical, so good, that we have to pass a law and put the full power of the state behind it in order to make everybody do it.

  3. Hardly surprising about the German (and other European) hoarding...

    Europeans and Americans choose to buy ordinary light bulbs around 9 times out of 10.
    Banning what people want gives the supposed savings - no point in banning an impopular product!

    If new LED lights -or improved CFLs- are good,
    people will buy them - no need to ban ordinary light bulbs (little point).
    If they are not good, people will not buy them - no need to ban ordinary light bulbs (no point).
    The arrival of the transistor didn't mean that more energy using radio tubes had to be banned... they were bought less anyway.

    All lights have advantages
    The ordinary simple light bulb has for many people a pleasing appearance, it responds quickly with bright broad spectrum light, is easy to use with dimmers and other equipment, can come in small sizes, and has safely been used for over 100 years.

    100 W+ equivalent brightness is a particular issue - difficult and expensive with both fluorescents and LEDS - yet such incandescent bulbs are first in line for banning in both America and the EU

    Since when does Europe or America need to save on electricity?
    There is no energy shortage.
    Note that if there was an energy shortage, the price rise would make people buy more efficient products anyway - no need to legislate for it.

    Energy security?
    There are usually plenty of local energy sources,
    Middle East oil is not used for electricity generation, 1/2 world uranium exports are from Canada and Australia.

    Consumers - not politicians - pay for the energy used.
    Certainly it is good to let people know how they can save energy and money - but why force them to do it?

    Most cars have emissions.
    But does a light bulb give out any gases?
    Power stations might not either:
    In Sweden and France, as in Washington state practically all electricity is emission-free, while around half of it is in many European countries and in states like New York and California.
    Why should emission-free households be denied the use of lighting they obviously want to use?
    Low emission households will increase everywhere, since emissions will be reduced anyway through the planned use of coal/gas processing technology or energy substitution.

    Also, the savings amounts can be questioned for many reasons:
    For a referenced list of reasons against light bulb bans, see onwards

    Even if a reduction in use was needed, then taxation to reduce consumption would make more sense since government can use the income to reduce emissions (home insulation schemes, renewable projects etc) more than any remaining product use causes such problems.
    People can still buy what they want, unlike with bans.
    However taxation on electrical appliances is in principle wrong for similar reasons to bans (for example, emission-free households are hit too).

  4. New business opportunity for travellers to Ukraine, Belarus, and Russia: smuggling light-bulbs back to the EU.

    Ha ha ha ha ha ha.

    1. so true. im pissed i didn't buy more from ukraine earlier this year

  5. The kind of man who wants the government to adopt and enforce his ideas is always the kind of man whose ideas are idiotic. H.L. Mencken

  6. In Australia, "light bulb socialism" mainly consists of power utilities giving away "free" (i.e. taxpayer funded / utility bill payer funded) 'low energy' bulbs.

    The trouble is, the bulb quality is crap. And despite their suppliers' and agencies claims, at least as far as my personal experience has been, their lifespan is very low with a high early failure rate. Free is basically what the things are worth.

    These outcomes are more or less what any free market economist would predict.

    One aspect of the low energy bulb fashion, and I'm happy to buy my own higher quality bulbs, even 'low energy' bulbs, that never gets discussed is color. Old people, seniors, in particular often have poorer color definition. After we experimented with low energy bulbs in my mother's house (she's 80+) she was regularly finding she was heading out for the day dressed in non-matching colors. She insisted on old fashioned bulbs after that!

    Stockpile while you can. My guess is that a profitable black market is around the corner.

  7. I found it very hard to change all my lighting to energy saving, until I was passed the details of an energy saving light company.