Thursday, February 17, 2011

The Federal Government’s Edison Complex

By Sen. Barry Loudermilk

First, they came for our toilets. Now, they want our light bulbs.

Believe it or not, I’m serious about this.

In 1995, the federal government tried to mandate water conservation. All homes would use low-flow toilets and, of course, water would be saved. Well, now that all toilets in the U.S. flush with no more than 1.6 gallons of water, a University of Arizona study showed that people just flush twice. The bottom line: no significant water savings.

The federal government, once again, shows the worth of its good intentions.

Now, in an effort to save energy, the federal watchdogs prove they have not learned anything from the great toilet fiasco of 1995. By 2014, energy efficiency limits on 40- to 100-watt light bulbs will effectively ban most standard incandescent light bulbs in the United States of America. You do remember all that “land of the free” mumbo jumbo, right?

The government, it seems, wants us to use the more expensive but “efficient” compact fluorescent light bulbs (CFL). The math is simple: CFL bulbs use less energy; if everyone uses CFL bulbs, energy consumption will drop. Well, if you said it can’t be that simple, you’d be right. CFL bulbs cost three times more to produce, take more energy to manufacture and 80 percent of them are made in China, meaning they are shipped across the globe on oil-guzzling tanker ships.

Making matters worse, CFL bulbs contain mercury and are considered an environmental hazard to homes and businesses. The U.S. Environment Protection Agency offers guidelines on how to clean up broken CFL bulbs. The guidelines are three-pages long and, according to the EPA Website, will be updated as more information becomes available.

According to the EPA, the minimum actions that should be taken once a CFL bulb is broken include: open doors and windows for 5-10 minutes, shut off the air conditioner or heater, scoop up broken material and place it in a glass container with a metal lid, use duct tape to clean up the remaining particles and put the used duct tape in a glass jar with a metal lid. If you vacuum the area, you must remove the vacuum bag when you are done, put it in a sealed plastic bag and get it out of your house. However you choose to clean up, you should let the house air out, without the AC or heater going, for “several hours.” The next several times you vacuum the area, you again should open windows and doors for several hours, turn off the AC and heater and seal the vacuum bag in a plastic bag. Some states, the EPA says, have specific guideline for where you must go to dispose of the sealed plastic bags and glass jars with metal lids.

I’ve used CFL bulbs in my house, mostly to see if I noticed a difference. My power bill did not seem to change but I can say with authority that the light level that these little things give off stinks.

I’ve sponsored Senate Bill 61, moving through the General Assembly now, which says federal law cannot ban incandescent bulbs in Georgia if they are made here and not shipped across state lines. Lawyers tell me this may not work. The federal government rules are too strong for state law to overcome. I’m going to push anyway. Maybe, just maybe, common sense is not lying broken in a pile of mercury-tainted glass.

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Sen. Barry Loudermilk serves as Chairman of the Science and Technology Committee. He represents the 52nd Senate District, which includes Floyd County and portions of Bartow and Gordon counties.

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