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Choice of light bulbs a tiny step in the big move toward conservation

By Cynthia Oi

LAST UPDATED: 1:59 a.m. HST, Jul 10, 2011

The federal government is not banning incandescent light bulbs. It is not.

There is no law that will stop people or nightclubs, hotels, sewing schools, factories, department stores or even government entities themselves from screwing in incandescents, if they so choose.

And yet there are individuals, businesses, restaurants and home-decorating professionals buying up and hoarding those three-ways, soft whites, pinks, floods, dimmers and clear-glass Edisons against a future when they think all these luminaries won't be available. Easy-money types are warehousing them to be sold for big bucks on a black market they believe will form when Home Depot and Longs can't put them up on the shelves any more.

Such nonsense. Let's move out of the dark here.

There is a law regarding light bulbs. It was signed four years ago by George W. Bush and simply requires that some incandescent light bulbs be more energy efficient and sets target dates within the next three years for bulb-makers to achieve this goal.

What's caused confusion are the get-government-out-of-my-life contingents — who while enjoying the benefits of safety glass, cleaner air, water and food brought by federal regulations — have misrepresented the law for their own purposes, whether it be to support their political candidates or to raise money for their narrow-vision institutions.

No one will be compelled to use those squiggly white-bright compact fluorescent that while costing more up front will save on their power bills in the long run. No agents will kick down doors to yank bulbs from reading lamps or refrigerators. Not going to happen.

Instead, if the right bulb choices are made, less electricity will be used, which will mean less carbon dioxide production. That will lead to drops in emissions of the greenhouse gas (not to mention mercury, the fear factor anti-CFBers raise against the curly bulbs) and a lesser effect on global climate changes.

Right choices would also mean less demand for power production, a prickly issue in Hawaii as proposals for intrusive wind turbine installations on our smaller islands and untested, expensive undersea cables with very unlikely energy-efficiency properties inch closer to approval by policy makers.

Meanwhile, conservation — curbing excessive or wasteful use of a resource — goes largely ignored.

According to the U.N. Environment Program, efficient use could cut energy consumption by a third in less than 40 years and smart cities, businesses and property owners have seen the light. Honolulu had a good start during the Harris administration when many of the city's traffic signals and facility lights, such as exit signs, were converted to LEDs.

The state made some feeble attempts by raising air-conditioning temperatures and turning off the lights when offices and buildings were unoccupied, but since then, there has been little, if any, follow-up.

These are tiny steps, but Hawaii's stake in conservation and renewable energy is huge. If these islands are to withstand the effects of climate change, policy makers, utility companies and other leaders would be wise to take diverse ideas into consideration.


Cynthia Oi can be reached at

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