30 April 2007

Lightbulb Haiku

The National Post is appalled, appalled I say, that their federal Conservatives are going to ban incandescent light bulbs by 2012. They're so appalled, they've decided to run a contest, asking readers to write a poem in the form of an ode to the light bulb. Here's my entry, I slaved long and hard to assemble my haiku (well, at least a minute or so):
National Post confused?
Brown vote like Post revenue:
shrinking. Steve reads polls.
'Steve' is Prime Minister Stephen Harper. There are many things that can be said about Harper; stupid is not one of them. The confluence of the IPCC reports, "An Inconvenient Truth", and public discussion about Kyoto has clearly resulted in a significant shift in public opinion towards environmentalism. Harper, in turn, has reacted to this. His rapid shift seems to have left some of his supporters in his dust as they continue to recycle year-old talking points.

Environmentally, the incandescent bulb ban is a small step. Symbolically, it is a much bigger thing. What is says is, "Yes, you all will need to make some little sacrifices for the greater good." The negative response thus far has been incredibly whiny. Cry more neophytes.

1 comment:

EJ said...

I've long believed conservation as the fastest and most practical road to reducing fossil fuel dependence and reducing carbon emissions. Replacing light bulbs is a good first place to start to conserve electricity. Banning light bulbs is a good measure, provided there are viable substitutes that meet the needs of low income users.

LEDs are promising because they are potentially a better substitute better for light bulbs than are fluorescents: they can be made cheaply, they put out light spectrum that is more appealing and natural, they can be configured to go into existing fixtures, and they can be made to last a very long time. That makes them well suited as replacements: users do not need to change their spending or use behavior to adopt them.

The last feature, durability, is a commercial liability for companies making LED bulb replacements. The expensive LEDs we were using in MIL applications at G&S Systems back in the early 1980s were rated for 100,000 years continuous used. Even if cheap commercial versions last for only 50 years, the current burn and replace business model for light bulbs won't work. (I've noticed, by the way, that those "7 year" Made in China fluorescents last two years max. so the model holds up for them.)

When I was working for a venture capital firm in Conn. two years ago I looked at a company spun out of MIT that had a new LED technology that claimed to produce 10x more light than other LEDs on the market at the time due to a new method of dissipating heat. Siemens recently claimed to have developed similar technology.

Do you see significant energy conservation potential in LEDs? Are there other more promising technologies?

Thanks. Fan of your site.