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The Rosett Report

Confessions of a Light Bulb Addict

November 27th, 2011 - 2:37 am

Americans being an enterprising band, it is of course possible that the country will develop bootleg markets in incandescents. Though I would recommend against such law-breaking. The federal government may not have control of America’s borders, but in Washington such stuff as border security can’t hold a candle to having control of America’s light bulbs. Presumably, federal authorities will now be spending U.S. tax dollars (excuse me — “creating jobs”) to deploy light bulb cops. In years ahead, if you haven’t amassed a private stash of the old incandescents, and find yourself yearning for their comfortable glow after the sun goes down, you may have to head overseas and comb the developing world for someplace where people are still free to choose what bulbs they sell and buy.

But I promised you the confessions of a light bulb addict, and so far I have mainly been talking about the drawbacks of the incandescent ban. So here begins the real confession. Never mind the crony capitalism, or the latest news of Climategate 2.0, or the simple ornery pleasure of exercising free will to choose how I individually will spend my scarce resources to light the night. I surrender. I give in. The federal government says this is for my own good. Washington can choose my ideal energy efficiency tradeoffs much better than I can do it for myself.

However, if the government is to be in charge of my tradeoffs, I must protest that Washington has not gone nearly far enough. There is so much more that could be done to ensure my energy efficiency. My passion for 100-watt incandescents is just the beginning of my vices. My entire day is one long set of tradeoffs that involve balancing what I would like against what I can afford, and almost all of it entails, in one way or another, the consumption of energy. I make coffee in the morning, though it would be more energy efficient to drink only water. I use up energy toasting bread, though I don’t really have to. When I open a can of soup, I heat it up, though we all know it is precooked and just as nutritious cold and straight out of the can. I heat my home to a temperature at which I can comfortably take my coat off indoors in the winter — though I know, from experience working in Russia 15 years ago, that this is not strictly necessary. I use hot water daily, though ditto the 1990′s Russian experience, I am well aware that this is not essential to survival. Some days I drive miles, not just for work, but for such frivolous pleasures as seeing friends — when, especially if ordered to do so by law, we could of course restrict ourselves to teleconferencing. Worse, in service of such idiosyncratic individual pleasures as visiting friends and family, I sometimes take airplanes.

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