Better living through laws?

I saw this article on the front page of the Merc today. Someone is proposing to ban sales of incandescent light bulbs by 2012 (to replace them with CFLs).

Even though they wreck havoc on photography, I only buy CFLs instead of incandescents. But does anyone else think this is a backwards way to go about transitioning?

[Law or Market after the jump]

I’m thinking simple economics should naturally cause the shift without resorting to an arbitrary structural change. To my mind, the only inherencies I can think of are arbitrage and externality.

In arbitrage, what might occur is the person buying the bulb, in which CFLs have a higher up-front cost and shorter life, is not tied economically to the person paying the electrical bill, in which CFLs save more than enough money. Does this happen often? In the case of apartments, even though water and heating is sometimes provided, I always have to pay my electrical bill. In the case of office buildings, they seem to be using track fluorescent lighting already and most landowners seem to have wised up to the benefits to them of saving electrical costs by automatically turning off air conditioning in the weekends and shutting off the lights in the evenings.

Externality seems a far more likely inherency. The costs of our electricity may be subsidized by the government or the costs of pollutants in the creation of the electricity may be hidden from the market by distance or time. If that is the case, instead of resorting to laws restricting consumer freedom, we should be dealing with the fundamental inherency that is causing poor purchasing decisions. For instance, a carbon tax or pollution credits. This should increase the cost of electricity in the short term and cause people to naturally decide whether the advantages of incandescent lightbulbs (dimmable, nice black body spectrum) are worth the cost.

BTW, there is a large variance in the color and quality of light put out by various brands of CFL lightbulbs. If you find you dislike CFL, be sure to try out different ones before writing the whole thing off.

4 thoughts on “Better living through laws?

  1. James Robinson points to C Crane’s list of LED replacement lighhtbulbs. I don’t really care about the bulb cost myself, at the wattage these things are, you can make that money back over the cost of the bulb easy. The problem is look at the lumens.

    For reference, a 15 watt CFL = 60 watt incandescent = 900 lumens. There is nothing on that liust that comes close. You’ll also note that CFL is more efficient than these white LED bulb replacments.

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