Crony Capitalism is the reason we won’t find any incandescent bulbs on the shelves

As of the start of 2013, it is illegal to manufacture or import 40- and 60-watt incandescent light bulbs in the U.S.  Last year the 75-watt bulbs were gone and the 100-watt the year before. The last of the smaller bulbs will be off the shelf.

Then you will only be able to buy more expensive bulbs that may or may not last a lot longer.

Why?

It isn’t to improve efficiency or save consumers money. That’s the excuse.

Blame crony capitalism. The ban is courtesy of businesses seeking favors from the government and the government happily granting said favors.

An article at the Washington Examiner provides background:  Industry, not environmentalists, killed traditional bulbs.

Light bulbs are a very competitive market, which means producers can’t raise prices. The three dominant producers in the US couldn’t sell more efficient bulbs because people didn’t want something that was far more expensive today and might, maybe save money if the bulb survives a decade of actual use.

What to do?

Get the Congress to ban the cheap stuff so consumers have no choice but to buy their expensive stuff.

From the article:

General Electric, Sylvania and Philips — the three companies that dominated the bulb industry — all backed the 2007 rule, while opposing proposals to explicitly outlaw incandescent technology (thus leaving the door open for high-efficiency incandescent).

This wasn’t a case of an industry getting on board with an inevitable regulation in order to tweak it. The lighting industry was the main reason the legislation was moving. As the New York Times reported in 2011, “Philips formed a coalition with environmental groups including the Natural Resources Defense Council to push for higher standards.”

So industry was the source and motivation for the ban.

Just to be clear, you gotta’ problem because consumers won’t buy your high-priced product? No problem. Just persuade the government to force them to buy:

Capitalism ruining their party [because consumers could choose which product the wanted], the bulb-makers turned to government. Philips teamed up with NRDC. GE leaned on its huge lobbying army — the largest in the nation — and soon they were able to ban the low-profit-margin bulbs.

The new bulbs might save consumers money. Maybe. From the article again. The

…compact fluorescents … give off UV rays, contain mercury gas, take a while to get bright and don’t last any longer than regular bulbs if you flip them on and off a lot.

Don’t have a cite immediately available, but I’ve read that if you break a bulb, you have a substantive health risk from the presence of uncontained mercury in the air and on the carpet where pets and toddlers can reach it. The mercury is a health & safety issue.

A few data points on typical prices for 60-watt equivalent:

  • $  0.40 – traditional incandescent (that’s before prices accelerated as stock runs out)
  • $  1.74 – compact fluorescent lamp (CFL) – hey, you gotta’ cover the cost of the mercury
  • $13.00 – LED

When you can’t find incandescent bulbs at the store, don’t blame the environmentalists:

But the market didn’t kill the traditional light bulb. Government did it, at the request of big business.

For a short while, incandescent bulbs will still be in the stores and available online, although prices are rising.

You might want to stock up quickly. Thanks crony capitalism.

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