Damned if you do . . .

Energy-efficient light bulbs are increasing greenhouse gases


B.C. Hydro—one of North America’s greatest champions of compact fluorescent light bulbs—has discovered an “unintended consequence” in their increased use. The cool-burning bulbs have resulted in a substantial decrease in electricity use. But unlike inefficient incandescent bulbs, which give off excess heat, CF bulbs don’t help warm the house . . . so people turn up the thermostat. The result, B.C. Hydro estimates, will be a 45,000 tonne annual increase in greenhouse gas emissions by 2017.

The Vancouver Sun

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Damned if you do . . .

  1. LMAO, wow, another “smart move” by the eco-loons. These light bulb monstocities are just like every other “green initiative” troted out. It always costs way more than advertized and never delivers the results promised. These wonderful bulbs are full of murcury, last about 20% as long as promised and cost a bundle. People also are reporting in alarming numbers of bulbs blowing up, smoking and emitting noctious gas. Wonderful. People are also reporting of skin rashes, headaches, nausea and other mysterious health problems they never had before these bulbs were put in there home. Fortunately health problems dissappear as soon as the bulbs do. Let’s not forget about how we dispose of murcury filled bulbs heading for landfills years ahead of when they were supposed to. Same with electric cars. Did anyone take into account dealing with the 500 lb. headache of a battery when the car is scrapped? The 40 lb. battery in conventional cars is the biggest recycling problem with that technology. How about wonderfull windmills. Talk to the people in Pubnico, Nova Scotia who were driven out of their homes when windmills went up. Their homes are now worthless. All kinds of health problems there as well. Apparently(no one is sure) they emit low level sound waves which make people violently ill. Nice. Time for politicians to stop being stampeded by eco-loons like Suzuki into doing something, anything to look green, no matter how ill advised it is. Time for this nonsense to just stop.

    • C’mon Wayne trial and error is appicable in every new technology, not just green ones. You do have a pt though. It would be nice if someone out there thought through these new fangled thingies before getting the population in an uproar.

  2. Conservation without actually adopting a conservative lifestyle is tricky. The consequence reported here is counterintuitive because heat generation from electricity (via a bulb or otherwise) is far less efficient than heat generation via gas. The kicker is that in BC a large chunk of electricity comes from hydro. In any jurisdiction not primarily powered by non-GHG emitting sources (which is by far most of them, worldwide), concentration heat generation into the actual intended heat source would be a net positive.

    But not a huge net positive. That’s the problem with trying to be conservative without actually adopting conservative practices. You can use CFC bulbs but if you’re keeping your house at a relatively unnecessarily high temperature, or you don’t have a high insulation factor, or you keep all your lights on, or or or… the impact is going to be minimal anyway.

    The upside I can see to the acknowledgment in this report is that it’s always better to have your heat being produced from as few sources as possible and from the intended source, since this allows targeted conservation in *heating use* to be more effective. It’s just people have to actually, you know, take steps to reduce their heat use. And that’s not as easy as popping in CFCs. (Although improving insulating factors in the home is a passive way, like using CFCs, it’s certainly more costly than just replacing light bulbs, and thus harder to get a lot of people to adopt.)

    • I see an obvious hole in your argument. In BC electricity is generated by hydro. Thus heat generated from light bulbs is greenhouse gas free. For some reason burning gas is protrayed as not producing the dreaded “green house gas”. It does, it’s just cleaner than burning coal or oil. Oddly, Harper’s attempt to cut greenhouses gases as well as other crap that’s killing people right now, not in 100 years time, was shot down because it wasn’t their pet project “kyoto”. Eco-hypocrites!

      • Wayne – you’re right about most electricity generated in BC, Ontario, Quebec and some of the Atlantic provinces. It’s generated by Hydro, which is about as GHG-free as electricity gets.

        But most power in North America is generated by coal. Even in Canada we burn substantial amounts of coal for electricity generation. So reducing consumption of electricity is a worthwhile goal in mitigating global warming.

        CFL’s use less power all year long AND they don’t add load to your air conditioning during warm months. For that reason alone it doesn’t make sense to use light bulbs as tiny space heaters.

        Besides – outside of areas supplied by hydro – gas heat produces LESS CO2 than electric heat, due to transmission losses and CO2-intensive sources.

        If you want to understand this issue – as opposed to just hurling feces – here’s an article that works through the math: http://blogs.edf.org/climate411/2007/10/09/heating_with_ics/

      • I’m with you on the gas vs hydro, TJ.

        I’m pretty suspicious of the numbers, though. Electrical use & heating fluctuate a lot, depending on a lot of variables. Did heating go up because of CFC’s, because weather was colder, or because of something else?

        CFC’s make a pretty easy target for anti-enviro bashers. They’re popular because they’re a pain-free solution, not because they’re a good solution.

  3. It doesn’t matter I hate those bloody bulbs

  4. ROFL LMAO – oh lord save me! I am no longer surprised by the Law Of Unintended Consequences and the ability of the real ruler of the Universe (Murphy The MIghtiest) to almost always arrange outcomes so that the best plans are invariably laid bare and of little account.

  5. Uh, guys? Let’s remember the energy-wasting heat given off by incandescents needs to be fought with energy-using AC in the summer. Plus, the heat given off by a ceiling bulb isn’t nearly as helpful for home heating as a lower-to-the-floor heat source.

    I am not saying these CFLs are a gift from a benevolent higher power. Only that this particular unintended consequence isn’t quite the condemnation you think it is.

    • What about the meriod of health problems being widely reported and all the expoding bulbs emitting poisionous gases? Plus the fact they burn out too early, are too expensive. Not to mention the elephant in the room the eco-fanatics don’t want to talk about, disposing of impossible to recycle murcury laden bulbs.

  6. The big problem with green technology not delivering, or delivering the opposite effect than they were intending is that you have government interference to try and produce an artificial demand. In this case, the banning of incandescent light bulbs by Ontario.

    Other examples such as encouraging hybrid cars such as Prius, which are about as environmentally friendly as the largest Range Rovers. When one considers how toxic their batteries are and how inefficient their mpg is when they are actually driven by someone in the real world, it is quite clear that hybrid vehicles like the Prius are about as much of a dead end in terms of fighting global warming as biofuels, which are also subsidized by governments.

    Largely, environmentalism’s biggest enemy is its advocates. Everyone wants to have more energy efficient machines to reduce costs and have less impact on the environment. Largely just by encouraging research into such technologies (perhaps by reducing artificial benefits given by governments on traditional energy sources, or providing various grants or competition prizes) you’ll find a ready market for them.

    However, a bunch of pseudo-intellectual elites using “green technologies” as a status symbol and moral bludgeon to annoy their lessers is generally the biggest thing that cripples the popularity of green technologies among the general public.

    • Current hybrids are a smokescreen. (Or a less-smoke-more-other-bad-stuff screen. Or something.) They let the car companies look like they’re doing something.

  7. “45,000 tonne annual increase ”

    how much insulation they figure that can buy?

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