You’re Either with Us, or You’re with the CFLs
So, what’s the bigger danger to the American public: Al-Qaeda, or compact fluorescent light bulbs (CFLs)?
If you follow the conservative punditry, online or off, it’s a tough call. Today’s (April 24) “Mallard Fillmore” comic strip is just the latest example of conservatives taking aim at these energy-saving bulbs, focusing primarily on the fact that CFLs contain mercury.
So, for Mallard Fillmore author Bruce Tinsley, Thomas Sowell, Rush Limbaugh (whose content is not publicly available) and the crowd at WorldNetDaily, let’s review the facts:
- A CFL contains about 5mg of mercury (and several manufacturers are working to lower that). In comparison, a watch battery contains around 25mg, the average mercury thermometer contains about 500 mg, and older mercury thermostats can contain 6-18 grams of mercury.
- Regardless of the amount of mercury, CFLs, like other mercury-containing devices, can be disposed of safely.
- The electricity produced to power an incandescent bulb from a coal-fired power plant will create 13.3 mg of mercury emissions (which is much more likely to end up in water, Mr. Tinsley).
- Finally, there’s never been a $2000 cleanup required for a CFL breaking… ENERGY STAR has clear guidelines for cleaning up a broken CFL. There’s probably more danger of mercury poisoning from a tuna sandwich than from a broken CFL.
So, why all the fuss? You don’t have to read very far into any of the above-linked examples to realize that publications like WND, and commentators like Milloy, Sowell, and Tinsley have a political agenda partly based in a dislike/distrust of environmentalism, and partly based in reaction to legislation banning the use of incandescents. In other words, the treehuggers are trying to take away your freedom as consumers… and undermine the free market… and toss us all into the shackles of godless communism…
What I find really interesting about this whole “debate” is that concern for the average person’s economic interest tends to go out the window with these pundits. Yep, these defenders of the “common man” never seem to mention that CFLs use 75% less energy than incandescents, and last up to ten times longer. The savings can be pretty significant. Ultimately, aren’t these “conservatives” undermining the very market forces they claim to support?
When I was in Kansas City a little over a week ago, I heard Daniel Wallach, director of Greensburg GreenTown, ask a provocative question: “When did the environment become a political issue?” One could ask that about CFLs… is this really something we should be arguing about?
Use a CFL… or the terrorists win! Yeah, I like that…