The world has seen that if ever a utopian scheme becomes law, that law achieves the opposite of the intended utopian effect. Call it “Longman’s Lemma” if someone else doesn’t already claim it. And nowhere can that proverbial truth be observed more laughably than in Congress’ compact fluorescent light bulbs.

Echoing around my head from some required eco-indoctrinaire experience in my educational past was this unconnected fact: “Some homes in Sweden are heated entirely with incandescent light bulbs.” I don’t remember where I’d heard this; it was being held up as an example of what errant Americans could do if only we let Bob Villa overwhelm our R-factors and insulate our attics properly. In colonial days, we were to be ashamed of our immorality; today we are supposed to be ashamed of our Owens-Corning.

Anyway, that idea wandered through my mind in search of something to connect with.

When it found Congress’ latest law on eco-madness, click, the light went on.

Regular, Thomas Edison-style, incandescent light bulbs throw off a large amount of heat. When you purchase a “100-watt” light bulb, that power rating refers to what the bulb consumes, not so much what it illuminates. Today we are told that a 15- or 20-watt compact-fluorescent will produce as much light as a 100-watt incandescent.


American leftists, intent on hating the chemicals they are made from, work very hard to force other people to reduce the amount of CO2 emitted during existence. Being mostly liberal arts majors, and not engineers, these folks have quickly come to equate energy efficiency with lower CO2 emission. Based on those vague facts, and a strong sense of female social emotion, Congress recently passed a law yanking incandescent lights from production and replacing them all with compact fluorescents. Wisdom has been mandated.

The net result, of course, will be more fossil fuels burned and more CO2 released. The lemma says so. And as a conservative, I’m OK with that and think it’s funny. But of course, facts shall never intrude on the feelings of idealism possessed by the utopian instigators of these stupefying laws. But I would invite everyone who thinks this Congress is a bunch of loonies to laugh at them with me.

Heating a home is far more energy consumptive than cooling it. And, according to National Public Radio, “on average, heating an American home with natural gas produces about 6,400 pounds of carbon dioxide (CO2, a major warming gas). Use electricity, and CO2 emissions average about 4,700 pounds.” One must recognize that whereas electric heat comes from a mix of nuclear power, coal and other sources, natural gas heating comes exclusively from burning things. So, electric heat, chiefly because nuclear power produces no oxidized carbon, pollutes less.

But how many pounds of C02 does it produce for two environmentalists to screw in a light bulb? Well, it’s about 17 percent more hot air than if you’d asked two conservatives to do it. See, if we remove a 100-watt incandescent, and replace it with a 20-watt compact-fluorescent, the light in the room may not dim, but the warmth in that room has been cut by about 80 watts.

Let’s consider an American home at 1,700 square feet, using 10 watts per square foot over the course of a year for heating, and lit with 30 incandescent, 100-watt light bulbs. In such a normal home, 17 percent of the wattage needed for winter heating would be supplied by the electric lights, when the lights were turned on. If you replace those incandescents with compact fluorescents, only 3 percent of the average heat necessary to heat the house would now be available from the light bulbs.

The conservation of energy points out that if the thermostat doesn’t change its setting, the lost wattage will have to come from your furnace or boiler. That means the 2,400 watts you otherwise would have been buying from the electric company you would now buy from your heating company. The furnace would run more often. Your heating bill would go up.

So, a regular natural gas home that would have been getting 83 percent of its heat from gas and 17 percent of its heat from electric light will now fall to 97 percent of its heat from gas and 3 percent of its heat from electricity. If NPR’s statistics are correct, that means a home using natural gas and incandescents would produce about 1,000 pounds more per year of CO2 by switching to compact fluorescent bulbs. Since most American homes are heated with natural gas, which costs less than electricity, it is an economic gain.

So, switching to compact fluorescents will save you money, raise the amount of hydrocarbons burned and make a mockery of the latest leftist utopian scheme. Conservatives should do it, and liberals should avoid it. But, of course, if you wanted lighting that lowered the humidity, lowered hydrocarbon pollution and employed green power from wind farms or solar, the Democratic Congress has prevented all that now.

As a conservative, I switched to compact fluorescents years ago to make more money and emit more pollution. I would encourage conservatives and liberals everywhere comply with the new law so they can do the same.



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Andrew Longman is a Christian and an applied scientist.

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