Monday, December 17, 2007

My reflections on Congress mandating CFL as standard

After reading the post on Consumerism Commentary and then reading the more on how the provision is a little known one, I have mixed feelings about the potential change to our light bulbs. On one hand, this is a step to reduce the energy consumption of a nation. On the other hand, why pick on the light bulb and nothing else?

Already, the Democrats backed down on a provision requiring 15% renewable energy generated by utilities by 2020, a requirement I think could have a greater effect on the environment and certainly make the United States of America more energy independent. While converting people to a standard bulb like CFLs will cut down on greenhouse gas emissions and energy usage, reducing usage alone is not enough. I am disappointed the Democrats gave up on a renewable energy standard. Of course, I also think we could get higher CAFE fuel standards for our cars than 35 mpg by 2020. My 1997 Dodge Stratus with a V6 engine can reach 30 mpg now (average 26 mph with winter and summer temperatures).

While creating energy standards that reduce our consumption of electricity is good, the energy bill seems compromised without renewable energy added to the mix. In addition, I would prefer that educating consumers about the correct disposal of CFLs would be part of the bill. What is the point of saving energy when more mercury is released into the environment and infiltrates our groundwater? Each CFL only has a small quantity of mercury, but because of this element, CFLs are hazardous waste and must be disposed of correctly. I know many people treat CFLs bulbs like incandescents--throw them in the garbage. More people buying more CFLs and disposing of them incorrectly sounds like a real hazardous waste issue to me. How will Congress address that problem?

I am all for reducing your impact on the environment and I appreciate the US government wanting to show it can make a difference with higher energy standards. However, this bill seems weak at best. I know a $40 billion savings for customers is nothing to dismiss but I want more stringent and wide-sweeping standards, not half-hearted ones that do not address the heart of the energy consumption issue: use of products that keep us dependent on others and cause havoc with our world.

What are your thoughts?

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