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Ban Bulb Bans

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After recent announcements that both California and Australia are considering bans of incandescent light bulbs, a Slashdot post suggests GE has made them more efficient. The press release has more information.

The new high efficiency incandescent (HEI™) lamp, which incorporates innovative new materials being developed in partnership by GE’s Lighting division, headquartered in Cleveland, Ohio, and GE’s Global Research Center, headquartered in Niskayuna, NY, would replace traditional 40- to 100-Watt household incandescent light bulbs, the most popular lamp type used by consumers today. The new technology could be expanded to all other incandescent types as well. The target for these bulbs at initial production is to be nearly twice as efficient, at 30 lumens-per-Watt, as current incandescent bulbs. Ultimately the high efficiency lamp (HEI) technology is expected to be about four times as efficient as current incandescent bulbs and comparable to CFL bulbs. Adoption of new technology could lead to greenhouse gas emission reductions of up to 40 million tons of CO2 in the U.S. and up to 50 million tons in the EU if the entire installed base of traditional incandescent bulbs was replaced with HEI lamps.

Kevin Nolan, Vice President of Technology for GE Consumer & Industrial, said: "In addition to offering significant energy savings comparable to CFLs, the 21st century version of Edison’s bulb provides all the desirable benefits including light quality and instant-on convenience as incandescent lamps currently provide at a price that will be less than CFLs. We and other lighting manufacturers have been aggressive in developing and marketing CFLs. But consumers want more options and we plan to respond to their needs and deliver environmental benefits, too. It’s important that we offer consumers a full range of products that meet their personal desire to reduce their negative impact on the environment while preserving their ability to pick the best lighting product for their needs. That’s why we are moving aggressively to commercialize these new lamps."

Notice that the new bulbs are still not as efficient as CFLs but may be if GE's predictions are accurate. This is yet another sign that outright bans of incandescents are a poor policy choice. A good policy choice would likely be regulating an efficiency in light bulbs - perhaps a minimum of x lumens per Watt. Another possibility is taxing bulbs that fall below some line.

Outlawing such lights outright is foolish because it is not the most efficient way to reduce GHG emissions without dampening the public's enthusiasm for positive changes.