Incandescent Bulb Ban Makes Me Think of Big Brother

What's next? No more SUVs or air conditioning?

In 2007, Congress passed a bill that would see a complete ban of incandescent light bulbs by 2014. You know, the ones Thomas Edison perfected. They’ll be replaced by compact fluorescent bulbs, which, according to proponents, are more environmentally friendly. You know, those twisty weird-looking bulbs that give off an eerie Big Brother-is-watching kind of glow.

[SIGNUP]Compact fluorescent bulbs (CFLs) contain mercury and cannot—so says the Environmental Protection Agency—simply be tossed in your regular trash. To dispose of a CFL, you must take it to a recycling center or seal it in two plastic bags before throwing out with your household trash. Option A requires you to start up your car and drive to the dump. Option B requires two plastic bags. Both options, it seems to me, add to your carbon footprint. The mercury (didn’t they stop making thermometers with mercury because this stuff is dangerous?) must be handled very carefully, according to the EPA, if the bulb should break. If you break one, you’re supposed to evacuate people and pets and air out the room for 15 minutes. Then scoop up the shards of glass and mercury, not with a broom or vacuum cleaner (that would contaminate them with a toxic chemical) but with a stiff piece of paper. Wipe up the area with a wet paper towel, being careful to get all debris up (use duct tape for the really small stuff; no kidding, that’s what the EPA suggests) and put everything into a glass jar with a metal lid. I don’t know what metal the lid is supposed to be made of … maybe kryptonite.

Does Congress have the right to ban a product that does no harm to the greater good other than consuming more energy? What happened to choice? I guess SUVs and air conditioning will be next. I mean, I could understand if they said no more cigarettes or Four Loko, although one could argue that a person has a right to kill themselves with cigarettes and alcohol. But light bulbs? Anyone else feeling like Big Brother is leering over their shoulder?

And how about the fact that all of those CFLs are made in China? Is anyone nervous about buying our light bulbs, all our light bulbs, the new ones with the toxic mercury in them that is, from the same people who brought us lead-painted children’s toys and tainted baby formula? And these newer light bulbs come at a cost above and beyond the extraneous disposal requirements. For instance, the light they emit will fade photographs, so get your graduation photo and that shot of you jumping from a rope swing last summer off the wall and put it … well, away, I guess. And CFLs supposedly can interfere with radio reception, cell-phone reception and your remote control.

So while you’re sitting in the den, staring at the snow on the TV and the bare walls, just remember, Congress said this was a good thing. I believe them, don’t you?