Another Obama Administration <span style="color: #008000;">green</span> energy boondoggle: $50 light bulbs!

Do you remember the claims made for the longevity of CFL (compact fluorescent light) bulbs? We would save brazillions of dollars and close down countless coal-burning power plants and save the world. It turned out that the CFL bulbs were not quite as long lasting as we were told.

Our good friend William Teach was pleased/ amused/ overjoyed from some notice (and links) he got from the intellectuals on Think Progress:

Climate Progress Whines Over Conservatives Making Fun Of $50 Lightbulb

By William Teach March 12, 2012 – 2:37 pm

I do thank Think Progress’ Brad Johnson for throwing a little traffic my way, though. Anyhow, he’s unhappy with the Washington Post story from the other day about the $50 LED bulbs, and moves on to say that hey, they really will save people a boatload of money in the long run.

More on that later. First

(Climate Progress) Whoriskey’s attack on the innovative, money-saving light bulb was promoted by the Drudge Report and picked up by right-wing blogs as further evidence that American clean-tech innovation is an Obama boondoggle. At Michelle Malkin‘s blog, Doug Powers complains about the “$10 million in prize money taxpayers are on the hook for in order to pay a company to create light bulbs people either can’t afford or won’t want.” Gateway Pundit screams: “It’s an Obama World… Gas Reaches $5 a Gallon & “Green” Light Bulbs Cost You $50 Each.” “The same people who can afford to drive a Volt (and have the limo pick them up when it runs out of charge) will be the ones purchasing this idiocy,” Pirate’s Cove blathers. American Enterprise Institute scholar Kenneth Green blasted the “Ludicrous Prize” as one of “epic energy-failures.” At Ricochet, George W. Bush speechwriter Troy Senik asks, “What lost? A bulb powered by the hoofbeats of unicorns?”

Blathers. I like that. Anyhow, according to Brad, the LED bulb will cost $80, including the purchase, over 10 years, while Thomas Edison’s bulb would cost $210 over 10 years, including purchases. That assumes that the LED would even last 10 years. Will they? Who knows. They haven’t been tested in the real world.

For my part, I’ve said I support better bulbs that save money. And, I actually support government contests to promote innovation. I did when I was a warmist, and I do now. But, come on, this is a big company, Phillips, getting $10 million for creating a bulb that is not affordable. It may save money, supposedly, in the long run, but $50 is a deal breaker. Even $25 is over the top. Especially if a person doesn’t know what kind of light they will put out, which has been a big problem with CFLs.

But, Warmists should put their money where their mouths are, and start purchasing the expensive bulbs.

The money quote: “They haven’t been tested in the real world.” Absolutely right. They can run their supposedly scientific tests on the light emitting diode bulbs, just like was done on the CFL bulbs, but somehow, some way, the scientific tests done on the CFLs failed to predict actual longevity in real world use. When it was a $6 CFL bulb — and the price has dropped since then — it wasn’t that big a deal when hey failed in not significantly longer time than the ancient technology incandescent bulbs, but whe the product in question is a $50 light bulb, all of a sudden a failure to achieve the longevity claims becomes a bit more important. Two extra dollars for a CFL bulb is the loss of a breakfast; $50 for an LED bulb might be gasoline to-and-from work for 2½ weeks.1 That starts to make a difference.

Brad Johnson2 described the new bulbs as “the super-efficient (10-watt), long-lasting (30-year) bulb.” Really? How many people have lamps which never get knocked over, and which are in use for thirty years? How many people even stay in their homes for thirty years? And if you do stay in your home for thirty years, and you have a $50, 30-year LED bulb in your kitchen, will you even be able to get light out of the fixture after thirty years of accumulated grease and grime coating the thing? (Somehow, I’ve never met anyone who dusted or washed their light bulbs, but I’m sure that this is a failing on my part.)

Perhaps the federal government will do it like they do for the Chevrolet Dolt: provide a $7,500 tax credit for buying a high-end, low-use automobile3, to try to bribe persuade people who otherwise would not buy a $41,000+ second car that they ought to waste their money be environmentally conscious and buy a Dolt.4

If the LED bulbs come down in price, it just might turn out that people will start to buy them in significant numbers, numbers sufficient to support their production in the marketplace. But the problem that our green friends have is that they believe so strongly in some of their cockamamie ideas that they just have to insist that the government subsidize them, not infrequently resulting in a waste of taxpayer dollars, because the government winds up investing not in companies with proven technology and business plans, but in corporations which present the slickest sales pitches.

Your editor does not particularly care if people want to start buying $50 LED bulbs for their homes; if they are spending their own money, then more power to them! If the free market will support the LED bulb industry, that’s great: it gives the public more choices and is certainly no infringement on anybody’s rights. But the government should keep out of the industry, should not spend any more money (that it already has to borrow from China) picking winners and losers,5 and subsidizing preferred sectors of the economy.


  1. I used the $3.739 per gallon I paid just today, assumed a 20 mile round trip from home to work and an average of 20 miles per gallon. $50 would yield 13.37 gallons at the specified price, and at a gallon a day for the commute, that’s 13 days to-and-from work.
  2. See his Think Progress biography.
  3. Which the President wishes to raise to $10,000!
  4. We have noted before that many of our environmentalist friends see the Chevrolet Volt as a great car for other people to buy, but for themselves, not so much
  5. And usually getting it wrong.

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