Sunday, August 07, 2016

Remember the Great Republican Light Bulb Freakout? They don't.

A little reminder from Amy Ridenour of the National Center for Public Policy Research in an Op-Ed successfully farmed out to over 30 newspapers: she claimed that compact fluorescents caused seizures and were toxic, and that "LEDs have particularly expensive up front costs now, although manufacturers say the price will come down after their main rivals have been banned for a while. They say that's because more will be sold; others say that's not how supply-and-demand works."

Plenty more like that if you care to look. By the way, they failed to notice it wasn't even a ban of incadescents, it was an energy efficiency standard where incandescents just  failed to keep up. This type of performance-based regulation is considered more market-friendly than prescriptive regulations, but the Republicans missed that.

So fast forward to now, and Joe Romm's article on the LED lighting revolution:

“The rapid adoption of LEDs in lighting marks one of the fastest technology shifts in human history,” Goldman Sachs stated in a new report. The accelerated deployment of light-emitting diode (LED) bulbs is on track to save U.S. consumers and businesses $20 billion a year in electricity costs within a decade, which would lower U.S. CO2 emissions by some 100 million metric tons a year!....As recently as 2009, this country didn’t have even 400,000 installations of common home LED bulbs... by 2012, we had 14 million — and by 2014 we had whopping 78 million installations.

... Since 2008 alone, prices for LED lightbulbs have dropped a remarkable 90 percent.... 

Joe says power consumption for lighting is projected to drop 40%, a big deal when lighting is 17% of overall power consumption. Read the whole thing etc.

Interesting to guess what people like Ms. Ridenour will get paid to publish in response. Being flat-out wrong certainly doesn't stop denialists from reasserting claims endlessly. In this case though it's a little harder to deny what's in front of the face of anyone who enters a hardware store, or just looks around at night: LEDs are everywhere, cheap to buy, cheap to use, and last forever. My guess is it'll be a version of the "improved air quality proves the Clean Air Act was unnecessary" argument we've heard before. LEDs would've mysteriously fallen from the sky in the absence of technology promotion and incentivization. Seems pretty unlikely, but what they can't argue is that there's been any harm from this regulation.

Another casualty with reality is the Jevons Paradox adherents, saying environmental benefits from energy efficiency will go away due to increased use. An example from alleged "skeptic" Guy McCandle titled "Why Are Eco-Fascists Trying to Ban Incandescent Bulbs?" is typical. Now we see what actually is happening. As is typical with bad arguments, the Jevons thing isn't completely bogus, but its overuse is very annoying.

One generalization from this is that regulation can work. A carbon tax might be better, is better, but when Republicans stop that avenue, we can make other approaches work.

And in today's unrelated closing comment, a Tweet:


Fernando Leanme said...

The Chinese made LED bulbs sold in Spain don't last forever. Some brands are almost as bad as Chinese brand batteries. These "communist" Chinese have evolved to be very shifty capitalists. I wouldn't be surprised if Mars had a civilization, but they took up communism and it destroyed the whole planet before they realized Marx was bogus.

Anonymous said...

I suppose I'll never get back the 20 seconds or so that I wasted reading FL's comment. Not that 20 seconds is very useful in itself, but if you add up all the other FL comments I probably shouldn't have bothered to read over the years... well, hmm. I suppose I didn't really have anything important to say.

Anonymous said...

With the LED revolution comes yet another revolution. The agricultural revolution. Abram Steiner of the Universal Hydroponic Nutrient Solution fame just passed away at age 95. Scott''s stock is doing well and they are buying up small formulators. It's all about to go industrial. That's really going to freak the fundies out as well.

Anonymous said...

Mel Gibson died horribly to save Americans from curly CFL bulbs. LED ones? Meh.


Canman said...

We don't know that LEDs wouldn't have dropped in price as steeply if incandescents hadn't been restricted. Now that we've got cheap LEDs, how about lifting the restrictions for people who want hot light bulbs.

William Connolley said...

So, LEDs are better than incandescents. Therefore, there is no need of any legislation in this area. Pointless law is bad law. Just let people buy the lighting they want.

Nick Barnes said...

LEDs were not better, or not as much better, than incandescents, when this regulation was introduced (and this was also true in the UK). The regulations had the effect of massively boosting the market for LEDs, thus increasing competition, bringing down prices, and fostering innovation (e.g. the colour of cheap LED lighting has massively improved in the last five years). I would tend to agree that now that LEDs *are* better than incandescents, we could perhaps lose the regulations (although last time I bought LEDs it was surprisingly hard to find the right ones for my fittings, among a sea of cheaper crappier halogens and CFLs, so maybe we need tougher regulations for a few years, to drive that garbage out of business).

William Connolley said...

> so maybe we need tougher regulations for a few years, to drive that garbage out of business

Why? That's just bad thinking. "I see a problem, I want government regulation to fix *my* pet problem" is why we're drowning in bad regulations that never die".

Kevin O'Neill said...

WC believes in a fantasy-land where all economic actors are rational and all markets are efficient. He has learned nothing from these past 10 years.

Even when presented with a regulation that did almost exactly as intended he cannot find reason to justify it. Not a big fan of Adam Smith, I take it.

The Efficient Markets Hypothesis has met reality and it has failed, but its adherents linger on.

Anonymous said...

last time I bought LEDs it was surprisingly hard to find the right ones for my fittings

They're called sockets. And the reason for those socket is the fact that the LED bulb and tube market right now is the retrofit market, which is driving the massive sales that is now driving the innovation.

The LED revolution has just begun. The next step is the loss of the sockets and the integration of LED modules into sheet lighting. The metrics for this is easy - SI units and dollars. Lumens, Watts and $. The color problems have been completely solved. The efficiency limit is somewhere around 300 lumens per Watt where ~ 100 lumens per Watt is the standard for cheap commercial retrofit bulbs and tubes, which right now is approaching 500 lumens per dollar. Those metrics are still improving

Andrew said...

Actually, Fernando may have a point; I fitted 7 LED main light bulbs in my house in a fit of dogooderism last October, and I've already had to replace 2. The electronics in the bulbs is the problem, not the LEDs themselves. Whereas the assorted CFLs they replaced had been there since forever.

caerbannog said...

Actually, Fernando may have a point; I fitted 7 LED main light bulbs in my house in a fit of dogooderism last October, and I've already had to replace 2. The electronics in the bulbs is the problem, not the LEDs themselves. Whereas the assorted CFLs they replaced had been there since forever.

Sounds like bad luck.

I replaced 15 incandescent bulbs in our place (recessed ceiling lights in the kitchen plus chandelier lights in the dining-room about 3 years ago with "bargain basement" Home Depot LED specials. All lights get plenty of use; they are switched on/off frequently.

No problems with any of them.

If I had waited until now to buy the LED bulbs, I would have paid significantly less for them. But with our electric rates of $0.19/kWh (<=130% of baseline) and $0.39/kWh (>130% of baseline), they've already more than paid for themselves -- so we are still ahead on the deal.

And then there's the Dell laptop I bought about 12 years ago that died right after the warranty expired. On the other hand, a Hewlett-Packard laptop I bought 9 years ago is still going strong (if a bit slow rendering all those browser ads).

The bottom-line: whether you are talking about LED electronics or laptop electronics, there is a "luck of the draw" element in play.

Andrew said...

Yes, there probably is a bit of luck. (plus 'eBay cheapo' beats 'Home Depot cheapo' in the cheapo stakes, in my world)

Of course, once we all have 24vDC lighting rings the electronics aspect will be much easier. Just need a few nice regulations to get that to happen now.

Thomas Palm said...

WC, what about all of us who don't want to spend hours reseraching what LED:s to buy becuase most of them are crap? Some kind of regulation is a very useful time saver, whether it is private or government. Otherwise the cheap crap tends to take over, because if you don't know whether or not the expensive LED is actually better, why pay extra for it?

One interesting example is the TCO-branding of computer displays. TCO is a Swedish union and their members complained about eye strain at work so the union decided to test displays and make recommendations, and soon found there was a big market for reliable, independent testing where manufacturers could charge extra for equipment they had independent proof was superior.

Windchasers said...

Thomas Palm,

That's what reviews are for, and return policies. The cheap crap doesn't usually take over, and in general the good drives out the bad. (To be noted: there are times when you *want* the cheap crap).

I'm with WC here: if you want people to use less electricity, raise the price of electricity. People do a good job of managing the resulting costs for themselves -- and generally, they do better than a top-down solution does.

And the US really does have an absurd amount of old regulations that we should throw out; it's one reason we're struggling economically.

For the same reason, I think that if we want to emit less CO2, we should put a tax on CO2 emissions. Don't try to force automobile mileage up, and don't try to subsidize other technologies: just penalize the thing you want to penalize.

Tom said...

I'm sure some of the libertarian skeptics did rail against the government intrusion that helped kick-start the LED boom.

But it wasn't a majority opinion. Just ask Jeff Id over at The Air Vent what his company does for a living...

Russell Seitz said...

Thanks to the invisible hand, 'The Modern Theory of Solids ' is still in print and available on e-bay after 78 years.

LED 's are approaching 40% wallplug efficiency, and theory allows ~55% operating at 300K

Anonymous said...

Bad luck? No. I think it's called 'thermodynamiocs and electromagnetic energy conversion'. Feel the bulb. It's cool. It doesn't even burn the plant leaves. Feel the shaft of the bulb. It's hot. That's the AC to DC power supply, the infamous field effect transistors etc. Now look at the socket. It the bulb installed upside down in an old lamp shade with improper airflow? Yes methinks. Now consider solar cells driving your LED modules with copper wire. Think battery gigafactory in Nevada.

Are you getting it? How do you think these vast arrays of rechargeable AAs work? Now you should know why Tesla and Solar City are merging.

Ditto vast arrays of solar cells, LEDs, fuel cells or what have you. Think maybe direct solar power carbon dioxide to methane conversion and hydrogen and oxygen production. Maybe throw nitrogen and argon in the mix. Let me know when you get it. You can thank me later.

Anonymous said...

What about all of us who don't want to spend hours researching what LED:s to buy becuase most of them are crap?

They're two bucks apiece at Menards for 800 lumen bulbs. Get a grip. If you are going to research anything, research thermodynamics.

William Connolley said...

> what about all of us who don't want to spend hours reseraching what LED:s to buy

Not a convincing argument for law.

> One interesting example is the TCO-branding of computer displays

Good example, because voluntary, and so doesn't support the point :-)

Anonymous said...

Sure it does, William, it supports his point that you're an ass.

But I already knew that. So it's a moot point.

Kevin O'Neill said...

"Trump Makes Big Economic Promises in Policy Speech, Including Moratorium on Federal Regulations"

LOL. I guess he'd have WC's vote if WC could vote.

The point of *any* law is to benefit society. The U.S. DOE's efficiency rules are a net benefit to society. And new rules As they state:
"In 2014 alone, LED installations prevented 7.1 million metric tons of CO2 emissions and saved $1.4 billion in energy costs. As a result of this proposed rule, more than 52 million metric tons of CO2 emissions would be eliminated. That’s equivalent to the annual electricity use of 7.2 million homes. This rule, if finalized as proposed, would also help save families and businesses over $9 billion on utility bills and new bulbs over 30 years of shipments."

Only a Trump (and the party of Trump) of would be opposed .... and perhaps a few EMH hangers-on that haven't marked their beliefs to market lately.

Russell Seitz said...

The most sobering solid state fact is surely that LED's have thus far saved more energy than photovoltaics have provided.

Windchasers said...

The most sobering solid state fact is surely that LED's have thus far saved more energy than photovoltaics have provided.

Ayep. The technology was closer to commercial viability, and it doesn't have the add-on issues that PV does (e.g., storage).

I think it's great that LEDs are doing great, but I do look forward to PV becoming more commercially viable.

Russell Seitz said...

There's plenty of room for materials development in wide band gap semiconductors for both PV and led aps, from BP and c-BN to light element pnictides and borides.

Brian said...

The law against incandescent bulbs may be over restrictive, but carbon is undertaxed. If Republicans want to do a deal then I'm all ears. But they don't.

Falling that here's my alternative solution for the future: put a sunset provision in the law, because that would make it easier to pass.

Brian said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Russell Seitz said...

Would a tax on Op-eds to to encourage the bewailing of coal mining and compact fluorescent bulbs in direct proportion to mecury emissions appeal to Brian's First Amendment heavy metal sensibilities?

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