In my last post on environmental issues I discussed the problems with compact fluorescent light bulbs (CFLs) (here). Since then the Gainesvilles Times has published a piece about citizens touting the benefits of CFLs (here).
Change a light, change the world
Cathy Strittmater, a member of the Dominion Valley board of directors, said her community has formed a task force to look for ways to save energy through load management and energy-efficient light bulbs.
William Pierce, chairman of Heritage Hunt’s community relations committee, said his community is also “focusing on ways that we can go green,” including encouraging the use of the compact fluorescent light bulbs.
According to the U.S. Department of Energy, these low-energy bulbs use at least two-thirds less energy than standard bulbs, give off the same amount of light and last up to 10 times longer. They also generate less heat and, according to the department, each bulb will save homeowners $30 or more in energy costs. When shopping for low-energy bulbs, consumers should look for the Energy Department’s Energy Star label that indicates the bulb meets federal guidelines for efficiency.
As the purpose of this blog is to encourage citizen involvement, I am actually quite happy to see people getting involved. In particular I like to see people sharing ideas. What bothers me is when people try to force others to adopt a particular idea. Unfortunately, people sometimes do not know when to stop. This excess generally takes one or both of two tacks. The first is spend the government’s money (i.e., the taxpayer’s money) and the second is to force their fellow citizens to spend their money.
For example, we have been hearing much about Virginia spends too little on energy conservation (here).
A 2005 report by the American Council for an Energy Efficient Economy (ACEEE) ranked Virginia 50th among other states and the District of Columbia in annual per-capita spending – less than 1 cent per person – on energy-efficiency measures.
The Commonwealth also finished second to last in spending as a percentage of annual utility revenues – less than 0.01 percent.
Only Wyoming ranked lower in both categories.
“It’s a national embarrassment,” PEC’s Communications Director Robert Lazaro said. “Here we have a 21st century economy and a 19th century utility.”
Then here is example from Wisconsin (Fortunately, our local people have not gone so batty.) of the positive outcome that resulted from a rebuff of excess (here).
There’s a bright spot to the city of Madison’s dim and now defeated idea to force landlords to install compact fluorescent light bulbs.
A whole bunch of us — including some City Council members — have learned that those swirly-shaped bulbs need to be recycled.
That’s because they contain mercury. If you don’t recycle them, they eventually break in the trash and the mercury seeps out.
One environmental group estimates that improperly discarded fluorescent bulbs cause tons of mercury pollution each year.
People discovered mercury is a pollutant! Wow!
Everything has its pros and cons. When it comes to making a choice, each of us has the right weigh those pros and cons and make our own decision. The problems is the effects of our personal decisions do not necessarily stop with ourselves. That is why we need government. We have to have some agency to help us resolve the conflicts that result when the effect of one person’s decisions have bad effects on another person.
When you or I make a decision, we do not have the right to impose the costs of our decision on someone else. When we pollute, however, we do exactly that. We dump our waste on somebody else. Unfortunately, with over seven billion people on our little planet, even relatively small amounts of some pollutants can become a problem, and mercury is one such pollutant (see this web site).
Pollution is not a new problem. So we do have some experience dealing with it. Unfortunately, due to the sheer number of products we produce, we have an increasingly larger variety of pollutants. So controlling pollution has become increasingly complex. Thus we have a choice. We can increasingly regulate polluters and mangle our economic system or we can pay more attention to the incentives we give industry. I recommend the latter.
Pollution imposes costs on our society. When our industries make products that pollute they should be taxed for doing so — unless they recover and recycle those pollutants.
Somebody has to pay to recover the mercury in fluorescent light bulbs, and this is not a particularly simple process (see here). Neither CFLs producers nor any of the other producers of fluorescent lights have made significant provisions for recovering the mercury they use in their lights. This is also true of a number of other products that use mercury. That has to end.
Trash, particularly poisonous trash, costs us all. However, instead of all of us paying the bill, each of us should be individually bearing the cost for what we each produce and consume. That will give each of us an incentive to reduce the overall cost.