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Citizens Against Government Waste Promotes Waste

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An oft-heard element of political debate is horror at government standard setting and regulations ... even if leads to an CFL Light Bulb improved marketplace. Whether seatbelts for cars or speed limits or building standards or ..., there is little to no problem finding screaming voices letting us know how this is a fundamental invasion of individual rights and some sort of constitutional violation. This certainly has been the case when it comes to incandescent light bulbs, with a visceral movement promoting the necessity of maintaining inefficient lighting options on the shelf in the name of liberty and freedom for all.

One of those voices: Citizens Against Government Waste (CAGW).

Consider that name within this scenario:

the Federal government announces that it will purchase a product that will cost the taxpayer three times as much -- not over lifecycle but in the first year and year-in, year-out, indefinitely.

Hmmmm ... could you imagine, in this scenario, the "Citizens Against Government Waste' going apocalyptic over this wasteful government decision? Well, that is -- in short -- the scenario when it comes to driving greater efficiency into light.

Let us take a simple lighting scenario for a federal workplace:
  • A 100 watt incandescent light bulb compared to the equivalent Compact Fluorescent Light bulb (CFL) which would use 73 percent less electricity (27 watts).
  • Incandescent bulb price of $0.50 cents with a 1000 hour life and the CFL price of $2.50 with a 4000 hour life
  • Light on 40 hours per week (a 'traditional' work week)
  • Average U.S. electricity price of $0.095 per kilowatt hour (kWh)
Over one year, that is 52 weeks, the incandescent light would cost the taxpayer $20.76 while the CFL option would cost $6.59. (Calculation here.) And these savings continue, year in and year out, indefinitely.

And, by the way, this doesn't consider additional costs: that the taxpayer would have to pay for the personnel time to change the incandescent twice each year while the CFL would last two years; that there are going to be more purchase orders (and paperwork) with incandescent bulbs; and less durable light bulbs mean more storage space eaten up by spares. And, consider the millions and millions of lights in the Federal workplace(s) and try to contemplate home many millions of times over we have to multiply that light bulb example to come close to considering the taxpayers' cost implication.

On the purest of financial payback terms, the CFL is the smarter choice by far even if one is solely concerned with the current budget year (and solely energy costs) and aren't pushed into "outyears" to justify looking at cost-to-own rather than a focus on "cost to buy".

In the face of this, however, the CAGW is strong voice urging on Congress to zero out government expenditures to enforce the requirement for greater efficiency in lighting.

The federal government should not be interfering in Americans' lives or influencing the free market. Traditional light bulbs are safe, cheap, dependable, and should be an available option for consumers. By contrast, energy efficient light bulbs are very expensive ... A 100-watt incandescent bulb costs approximately $0.60 per bulb. An equivalent compact fluorescent light bulb, which uses less energy, costs $3.40 per bulb.

H.R. 2417 would repeal certain provisions of the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007 and eliminate onerous energy efficiency standards for light bulbs that are scheduled to take effect in 2012. These new regulations would reduce consumers' lighting options by forcing them to purchase more expensive technologies, which disproportionately hurts lower income Americans. ...

Lawmakers should not be allowed to senselessly remove product choices from consumers or pick technology winners and losers at the expense of taxpayers.

When it comes to energy efficiency, there is a real challenge of those who focus on "the cost to buy" something rather than the "cost to own". "Traditional light bulbs" are "cheap" if one only considers purchase price and "dependable" if one isn't considering longevity compared to other options. Asserting that "energy efficient lighting are very expensive" and "more expensive technologies" is an example of the shallowest pointing to the trees to avoid looking at the forest. The extra cost to buy a more expensive light bulb is paid back in weeks and keeps on that saving, week in and week out. Thus, the "more expensive technologies" to buy, when it comes to lighting, are the far less expensive technologies to own. If the government were making that more expensive choice, the Citizens Against Government Waste would rightfully be in a position to scream 'Waste, Fraud, Abuse'. When it comes to the citizenry, in the name of "product choices", the CAGW are one of the voices abusively leveraging fraudulent arguments to foster waste.

A voice far more worthwhile to listen to on this: Secretary of Energy Steven Chu. Secretary Chu has made it clear that advancing regulations and standards is perhaps the most cost effective path for the Department of Energy to enhance people's lives and put money in their pockets. And, he has been on the receiving end of much criticism for such standard setting. This, however, is criticism he is ready to take:

Forcing people to save is a cost that I am willing to bear.

And, by the way, the whole claimed 'freedom to choose' argument glosses over (actually, typically ignores) a simple fact: while the 100-year old Thomas Edison version doesn't do so, even incandescent bulbs are able to meet the new standards. See, for example, here.

The standards will not limit consumer choice to compact fluorescent light bulbs (CFLs). Incandescent bulbs will still be available, as long as they achieve a certain level of efficiency. Efficiency standards have also spurred innovation that has provided more choices for consumers - such as energy-efficient incandescents and LEDs.

RE Lighting efficiency paybacks, see:

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