The Ban The Bulb energy efficiency campaign is one of Dr Matt Prescott's environmental projects  | Contact BTB  
     Energy Saving Day (E-Day) | Oxford Earth Summit | Earth Summit Info | Environmental Rating Agency | "Heat" | 100 Years
                   Please contact Matt if you would like to support Ban The Bulb or next year's Energy Saving Day (E-Day) 
              A campaign to save money and help the environment by using energy efficient light bulbs

Thursday, January 03, 2008

Letter to Editor of The Guardian : Lionel Shriver column
Ban The Bulb has sent the following letter to the Editor of The Guardian following the publication of an article by a columnist called Lionel Shriver.

Dear Sir,

I am writing as a result of the column published by Lionel Shriver on Thursday 3 January, 2008.

Having successfully proposed the banning of incandescent light bulbs as an easy first step in our efforts to reduce the waste of energy, cut carbon emissions and save money I was very disappointed that The Guardian decided to publish so many unfair and ill-informed comments.

I understand that Lionel was only writing a frivolous and light-hearted column, but I still feel that it was extremely harmful of your newspaper to suggest that there are no compact fluorescent lamps that could produce a decent quality of light and that it was a good idea to stockpile wasteful incandescent light bulbs.

Lionel was right when she said that a 20 watt compact fluorescent lamp (CFLs) takes more energy (4kWh) to make than an equivalent incandescent light bulb (1kWh). However, she failed to mention that a CFL also lasted 6-15 times longer (6000-15000 hours) and used 80 watts less electricity for every moment of it's life.

In addition, a good quality CFL, with pleasant light properties and a high level of build quality and performance, could save its owner £45 - £130 of electricity over it's lifetime while only costing 60p - £4.00 more to buy.

Please see the following review of different designs of compact fluorescent lamp, which I recently wrote for your own newspaper.

As with all things if you buy a cheap CFL, which relies on basic and old technologies, you might not get the performance you would like. This does not mean that better and more aesthetically pleasing CFLs are not available.

The mercury recycling issue associated with CFLs does indeed need to be more adequately addressed by retailers and city councils, but the excess electricity used to power an incandescent releases almost three times more mercury into the atmosphere than the 4mg contained within a CFL. At least with a CFL the mercury is contained and the option of recycling exists.

Lionel was also right to say that there are reasons to be concerned by the lack of detail and urgency in the UK government's and the EU's proposals to phase out and ban incandescent light bulbs.

If light bulbs bans cannot be coherently implemented in a rapid and successful fashion how are we ever going to phase out any of the bigger and more problematic technologies which also waste vast amounts of energy unnecessarily?

Personally, I am extremely worried by the lighting industry's calls for 10+ years to achieve the 60-70% energy savings which are already possible with today's CFLs (and which I might add will shortly be beaten by LEDs).

The manufacturers have invested in high-efficiency incandescents which use 30% less electricity than today's incandescents and understandably they want to see a return on this investment, but this does not mean we should settle for half the energy savings that are already possible.

I would therefore have liked to have seen Lionel use her public platform to call for technology neutral performance criteria which allowed CFLs to become the new minimum standard.

If this was the case that there can be little doubt that plenty of new and better lighting technologies would be developed and used within 3-5 years.

Incandescents were invented over 120 years ago, and could be replaced by many superior technologies if only the right regulations and financial incentives were put in place.

Saying that all CFLs are rubbish and that there are no decent alternatives to incandescents is factually incorrect and could slow the uptake of the many energy efficient technologies, which the latest climate change science tells us need to be brought to market as soon and widely as possible.

As things stand, the proposed domestic light bulb bans are going to be phased in over several years and it will cost billions more to produce extra electricity needed to continue powering ever more incandescents and halogen spot lights, by building new power stations, than it will
to change the small proportion of the country's energy guzzling light fittings which cannot accommodate CFLs or LEDs.

I haven't even attempted to calculate costs associated with the impacts of climate change or our need to secure energy supplies from some of the most unstable countries and regions in the world, but these costs definitely shouldn't be ignored by those who say they cannot be bothered to
change their light bulbs.

Until a light bulb ban was proposed and defended on hard-headed technological, economic and scientific grounds many people had the same prejudices as Lionel.

To date, over 30 countries (including the members of the EU, the US, China and Australia) have had a look at the available lighting technologies and decided that the case for the modest and painless banning of domestic incandescent light bulbs stacks up.

The UK's ban of incandescents will reduce annual carbon dioxide emissions by 2-3 million tonnes, similarly the EU's annual emissions will be reduced by 23 million tonnes while the Chinese government's decision to stop manufacturing 70% of the world's incandescent light bulbs will reduce the world's annual carbon emissions by even more.

I sincerely hope that you will consider balancing Lionel's personal comments by highlighting some of the ways in which CFLs and other energy saving technologies could become more widely used and, with the minimum of sacrifice, play a significant part in our efforts to tackle
climate change.

Warmest regards


Dr Matt Prescott
Director, Ban The Ban

Labels: ,