How Many Legislators Does It Take To Change A Lightbulb ?  

Posted by Big Gav in

Malcolm Turnbull is one of the few members of the government who both understands global warming and has the wits to make some political capital from it, with his new proposal to ban incandescent light bulbs getting lots of attention around the world.

THE inefficient standard light bulb could be phased out within three years to save up to 800,000 tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions.

The federal Environment Minister, Malcolm Turnbull, is expected today to announce a commitment to phase out incandescent light bulbs by 2009-10, a world first by a national government. It hopes to convince state and territory governments to introduce energy performance standards that would lead to the replacement of standard light bulbs with more efficient but more expensive alternatives such as compact fluorescent lights. It will also negotiate with manufacturers to phase out the bulbs.

Though the days of supermarket shelves full of 40-cent light bulbs may be numbered, the lighting industry predicts the price shock will not last long. In many cases, compact fluorescent lamps sell for about $10 each, but typically last six times as long as their predecessors.

Colin Goldman, the head of Nelson Industries, a lighting importer, supported the move. "These days you can buy a six-pack at the $10 mark," he said. "The prices are coming down, and as soon as you get volume with greater numbers on the market they come down further." The Government is under pressure to improve its green credentials. Climate change will be a big issue in the federal election.

Australia was not the first with the idea. Last month legislators in California proposed a "How Many Legislators Does it Take to Change a Lightbulb Act" that would phase out incandescent light bulbs by 2012 in favour of compact fluorescent bulbs.
According to the Federal Government, up to 95 per cent of the energy each standard light bulb uses is wasted, while compact fluorescents use only 20 per cent as much electricity to produce the same amount of light. EnergyAustralia says by using just one 15-watt compact fluorescent bulb instead of a 75-watt standard bulb, consumers could save about $10 a year.

In Australia lighting represents about 12 per cent of greenhouse gas emissions from households, about 25 per cent of commercial sector emissions, and a quarter of the emissions associated with public and street lighting. The Federal Government estimates replacing the old bulbs with compact fluorescents in homes could cut greenhouse gas emissions by as much as 800,000 tonnes a year in 2008-12. Australia's emissions in 2004 totalled 564.7 million tonnes. ...

Greg Bourne, the chief executive of the conservation organisation WWF, said phasing out standard bulbs was a useful step in the transition to an energy-efficient world, but it passed on the cost directly to consumers. "Architecturally, in some places it is difficult to change over," he said. "It [the federal decision] does feel like a knee-jerk reaction, but it is a step in the right direction."

While I quite like Malcolm (something I can't say about most members of the government) I still have a few reservations about outright bans and other heavy handed forms of regulation (given my generic fear and loathing of a future carbon dictatorship).

In general, I'd prefer a simple, flat carbon tax (with matching offsets in income tax) to deal with the problem of reducing carbon emissions rather than a slew of regulations targetting various forms of energy inefficiency. As an example, if someone is on a 100% green energy plan (as you should be) then it doesn't matter all that much if they are "wasting" energy - so long as they aren't emitting any carbon dioxide when doing so.

Somewhat ominously, I'm just slightly aligned with Fairfax's resident right wing nutcase Miranda Devine, who goes rather further than I would and compares Malcolm to Hugo Chavez and Fidel Castro (I didn't realise these guys had also banned incandescent bulbs - though at least they have the excuse that they run command and control economies). Miss Loony Tunes also manages to complain that the government isn't giving the globes away for free. Oh what tangled webs the big government conservative can weave...
YOU KNOW Australia has lost its mind on the green front when the conservative Howard Government starts emulating the communist dictatorship of Cuba.

Federal Environment Minister Malcolm Turnbull's plan, foisted without warning on the nation last week, to ban incandescent light bulbs from 2010 and force us to replace them with more energy-efficient fluorescent ones, was hailed almost unanimously around the world as a bright idea.

While the Government billed the switch as a world first the Associated Press soon pointed out that Cuba's dictator Fidel Castro launched a similar program two years ago to make citizens swap incandescent bulbs for fluorescents. His protege, Venezuela's socialist president Hugo Chavez, soon followed suit.

You might say Turnbull, Castro and Chavez are the three amigos of the climate change nanny state. But at least the communists gave fluorescent bulbs away for free. In Australia we are expected to pay six times more for the new bulbs, as well as for any new fittings.

In Cuba, Castro has enforced his light bulb giveaway by using thousands of students, euphemistically called "social workers", to enter people's homes, whether they like it or not, and change the bulbs. At the same time, they take an inventory of electrical appliances in the home. Now there's an idea.

This is not to say that encouraging Australians to replace their 135 million incandescent light bulbs with more energy efficient lights is not worthwhile.

It's just that we should have a choice about it. The Government could achieve a similar result by offering incentives such as free bulbs or rebates, in much the same way that the NSW Government has given $150 rebates for water-efficient, four-star-rated washing machines.

Instead, in a stroke of political brilliance, the entire cost of the light bulb extravaganza is to be borne by individual consumers, while Turnbull gets the kudos.

Meanwhile Labor's Kevin Rudd is making a few bad moves (even though he's now well ahead of the Rodent in the polls) declaring he'll invest billions of taxpayer dollars into the development of "clean coal" technology, to the dismay of the Climate Change Coalition. Why not leave it to the market (ie. the coal mining companies) Mr Rudd ? If coal can't compete with wind and solar, it should be left as a dirty relic of the industrial age...
"'Clean Coal' is a contradiction in terms. It doesn't exist," says Patrice Newell, who is heading the Climate Change Coalition team for the Upper House elections on March 24.

"It is an idea, a hope, not a fact. Yet politicians across the board, state, federal and municipal, talk it up desperately. It's a major issue on the NSW elections and on SUNDAY Kevin Rudd gave it a huge boost.

More concerned with electoral 'damage control' than with the vast damage coal is causing to the atmosphere, Rudd called for 'billions' to be invested in the hypothetical technology so that Australia can continue to profit from the coal exports 'we cannot afford to lose'. The real fear, however, is the loss of seats in electorates close to coal mines, particularly in the Hunter Valley.

Taxpayers should not be paying for clean coal technology. Mining companies should fix up their own industry. Clean coal research should be paid for by the record profits currently generated by coal mining.

When Australian miners of asbestos were finally held to account for the hundreds of thousands of miners, carpenters and others affected by asbestos-related diseases there was no call for 'clean asbestos' or for the profits earned from its mining to be protected. Nor was the local tobacco growers lobby received with open arms when the links to cancer and other lung diseases could no longer be denied.

Now, finally, it is recognised that coal mining is wrecking the lungs of the entire planet - that it's the greatest single contributor to the greatest crisis this planet has faced. Yet our leaders talk of a magic answer - clean coal - when it is as far away as 'safe nuclear'.

Coal isn't clean. It's filthy. It may get a little cleaner down the track. But Rudd's billions would be much better spent on the renewable energies that are 100 per cent clean right ruddy now!!"

The Climate Change Coalition was formed to work with any group, organisation, political party or individual taking action against climate change.

The (UK) Daily Telegraph has an article on the potential of CIGS solar power.
Within five years, solar power will be cheap enough to compete with carbon-generated electricity, even in Britain, Scandinavia or upper Siberia. In a decade, the cost may have fallen so dramatically that solar cells could undercut oil, gas, coal and nuclear power by up to half. Technology is leaping ahead of a stale political debate about fossil fuels.

Anil Sethi, the chief executive of the Swiss start-up company Flisom, says he looks forward to the day - not so far off - when entire cities in America and Europe generate their heating, lighting and air-conditioning needs from solar films on buildings with enough left over to feed a surplus back into the grid.

The secret? Mr Sethi lovingly cradles a piece of dark polymer foil, as thin a sheet of paper. It is 200 times lighter than the normal glass-based solar materials, which require expensive substrates and roof support. Indeed, it is so light it can be stuck to the sides of buildings.

Rather than being manufactured laboriously piece by piece, it can be mass-produced in cheap rolls like packaging - in any colour.

The "tipping point" will arrive when the capital cost of solar power falls below $1 (51p) per watt, roughly the cost of carbon power. We are not there yet. The best options today vary from $3 to $4 per watt - down from $100 in the late 1970s.

Mr Sethi believes his product will cut the cost to 80 cents per watt within five years, and 50 cents in a decade.

It is based on a CIGS (CuInGaSe2) semiconductor compound that absorbs light by freeing electrons. This is then embedded on the polymer base. It will be ready commercially in late 2009.

"It'll even work on a cold, grey, cloudy day in England, which still produces 25pc to 30pc of the optimal light level. That is enough, if you cover half the roof," he said.

"We don't need subsidies, we just need governments to get out of the way and do no harm. They've spent $170bn subsidising nuclear power over the last thirty years," he said.

Solar power plant size is growing rapidly, with Abu Dhabi the latest to announce a large solar power plant (Wonder what they know about oil and gas reserves that other people don't).


Except it's Abu Dhabi investing $350 million in a 500 MW solar plant. My colleague JP Ross just traveled there and met with those guys -- they are serious as a heart attack about building large-scale, central-station solar power.

When even these guys get it ...

In unrelated news, I once heard a story about a company that was entirely dependent for their raw materials on a single supplier. This company heard that their supplier was investing in other products, but thought nothing of it. Soon, the supplier announced they were out of the raw material, and the company went bankrupt. Sad story, huh?

TreeHugger has pick up an interesting post from After Gutenberg on a different form of energy storage - using a hysteresis loop to control cold storage warehouses and thus using off peak energy, hopefully from wind.
Critics of wind power are quick to jump on the issue of intermittence: essentially, wind turbines produce power when the wind blows, and that's not always when demand for electricity is at its high points -- solar power suffers from the same issue. Until we find a way to store the electricity produced when it's not needed, large-scale wind power is just a pipe dream, they argue. A group of Danish researchers will be testing out a novel solution to this problem: using refrigerated warehouses as giant "batteries" for electricity storage. According to Nature, the idea is pretty simple on its face:
Say you lowered the temperature of all large coldstores in Europe by just 1°C during the night when electricity demand is low, then let it rise 1°C by switching them off during the day when demand is at peak. The net effect would be that the warehouses would act as as batteries — potentially storing 50,000 megawatt-hours of energy — and the food wouldn't melt.

Theoretically, it is simple; in reality, there are still a number of hurdles to overcome, including the proximity of coldstores to wind turbines. Still, researchers from other parts of the world believe the idea is worth testing, and could serve as a useful counterpart to other storage proposals, including plug-in hybrids and "heat pumps that convert electricity to hot water..." The cold storage concept has one particular strength, though: the infrastructure for it is largely in place. After Gutenberg notes that the US, for instance, might have as much as 900 GWH of "energy-banking capability," or roughly 2 hours of average US electrical consumption, and "We’d have to build out one huge amount of wind and solar power capacity to strain that."

Is this a promising project, or are there elements of cold storage researchers haven't yet considered? We'll know in a year and a half: the Night Wind project runs through June 2008.



Michael Klare has a new post at TomDispatch on Bush's talking points for the next war.
At 10:16 PM on March 19, 2003, after copious military preparations in the Persian Gulf region and beyond, after months of diplomatic maneuvers at the United Nations, after a drumbeat of leaked intelligence warnings and hair-raising statements by top U.S. officials and the President about Iraqi weapons of mass destruction and how close Saddam Hussein might be to developing a nuclear weapon, after declaring Saddam's regime a major threat to Americans, after countless insinuations that it was somehow connected to the 9/11 attacks on our country, after endless denials that war with Iraq was necessarily on the administration's agenda, President George W. Bush addressed the nation from the Oval Office. "My fellow citizens," he began, "at this hour, American and coalition forces are in the early stages of military operations to disarm Iraq, to free its people and to defend the world from grave danger…"

Almost four years later, all the above elements are again in place, this time in relation to Iran -- with Iranian responsibility for the deaths of Americans in Iraq replacing Iraqi responsibility for the deaths of Americans in New York and Washington. On a careful reading of our President's latest speeches and statements, Michael Klare has noted that an actual list of charges against Iran, a case for war, has already essentially been drawn up, making it easy enough to imagine that at 10:16 PM on some night not so very distant from this one, from that same desk in the Oval Office, the President of the United States might again begin, "My fellow citizens, at this hour…" But read on for yourself. Tom

Bush's Future Iran War Speech
Three Charges in the Case for War
By Michael T. Klare

Sometime this spring or summer, barring an unexpected turnaround by Tehran, President Bush is likely to go on national television and announce that he has ordered American ships and aircraft to strike at military targets inside Iran. We must still sit through several months of soap opera at the United Nations in New York and assorted foreign capitals before this comes to pass, and it is always possible that a diplomatic breakthrough will occur -- let it be so! -- but I am convinced that Bush has already decided an attack is his only option and the rest is a charade he must go through to satisfy his European allies. The proof of this, I believe, lies half-hidden in recent public statements of his, which, if pieced together, provide a casus belli, or formal list of justifications, for going to war.

Three of his statements, in particular, contained the essence of this justification: his January 10 televised speech on his plan for a troop "surge" in Iraq, his State of the Union Address of January 23, and his first televised press conference of the year on February 14. None of these was primarily focused on Iran, but the President used each of them to warn of the extraordinary dangers that country poses to the United States and to hint at severe U.S. reprisals if the Iranians did not desist from "harming U.S. troops." In each, moreover, he laid out various parts of the overall argument he will certainly use to justify an attack on Iran. String these together in one place and you can almost anticipate what Bush's speechwriters will concoct before he addresses the American people from the Oval Office sometime later this year. Think of them as talking points for the next war. ...

3 comments

Anonymous   says 3:01 AM

FYI, the 900 GWh figure was based on the assumption that the 50 GWh number from the original applied to the cold-storage capacity of Holland.  The US has about 18 times the population of Holland.

Apparently, a careful reading shows that it applies to the cold-storage capacity of much or all of the EU.  If proportionality applies, the US may have even less than 50 GWh of load-levelling potential in cold-storage units.

-- Reality Czech

Apparently, a careful reading shows that it applies to the cold-storage capacity of much or all of the EU.

Thanks for the comment - could you show me where a "careful reading" indicates this is an EU figure, not a Dutch figure ?

When I re-read it it looked pretty specific to Holland - but maybe I haven't gone back to the same source you are talking about...

Anonymous   says 12:49 AM

OR maybe Miranda isn't paid, but like those who want to believe (need to believe?) that Climate Change is part of a natural cycle (conservative think tank genisis of the phrase not withstanding al la Four Corners), she actually thinks this way? OR as George Cosatanza (from Sienfeld) said, it's nor a lie if you believe it.

SP

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