#28 – In defence of the incandescent light bulb.

There have got to be people in Ontario who can take a stand. They have to be able to say to Dalton McGinty and his cabinet cohorts that enough is enough, stupid! While the defence of the incandescent light bulb might appear to be of less than life-threatening concern, there are principles at stake, freedoms at issue, conflagrations to be prevented and our eyesight to save.

In the rash foolishness of the Ontario government trying to save us consumers from ourselves, the banning of incandescent light bulbs by 2012 is a ridiculous and unnecessary step into the realm of big brother. The government has managed to put itself—once again—into the position where it will have to backtrack and overrule itself as it has in the case of banning coal-fired power generation. If there is no adequate replacement for the old technology, banning it does not work.

It’s not that we are Neanderthals who do not want to save our planet. There is no question but that a clear majority of Ontario citizens respect and support sensible efforts at energy conservation. We contribute with heroic efforts at recycling. We have been buying energy-conserving appliances and low-flow toilets for years. We are the very best recyclers of beer bottles in the world. We want to do our bit.

But that does not mean we should be saddled with a technology that is basically crap! And that is the only suitable term for the present state of development of the compact fluorescent light (CFL) bulb. By no stretch of the imagination is this technology ready to replace the faithful incandescent bulb. Any light bulb that takes time to come up to full lighting capacity is a step back in time. While the amount of mercury in these CFL bulbs is miniscule, it is still a unique recycling problem. And once they have come to full luminescence, CFL bulbs are not much to read by. We could get closer to the damn things but they still have a tendency to blow up and that discourages us from getting too close. Even when they are only smoking and sputtering, you are wary about getting near enough to remove the source of power to them.

We should also note that some of the so-called weaknesses of incandescent bulb technology are also strengths. The incandescent bulb gives off heat as a by-product of the energy it uses to give us light. That is why the bulb can be used as a safety measure to prevent freezing in water lines, to warm incubators and to add additional heat where needed in washing areas. It is a highly developed and versatile technology.

CFL technology is not as developed. Not, we should note, that CFL problems cannot be solved in time but that we do not know the cost. Maybe we should bet on a combination of light-emitting diode (LED) and CFL technology to meet our long-term needs. Whatever we do, there is no forgiveness for people who threaten us that they are taking the incandescent bulb off the market. There are carrots and there are sticks. We do not take kindly to people who think they can use a stick on us.

Mr. McGinty and friends, take heed.

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