Two years ago, Fidel Castro switched his communist island from classical incandescent light bulbs to more efficient fluorescent light bulbs. The reason is simply that electrical blackouts are common on this island plagued by the criminals and the leader has the power to dictate similar things to the whole nation. Needless to say, Hugo Chavez, the most active communist rock star of the present world and a Stalin who returned from a fattening station, is planning something similar in Venezuela.
But would you expect that the government of a decent and wealthy country such as Australia would promote a similar policy as the losers above? It's kind of surprising but it's true. ;-)
Figure 1: Spectrum of "cool white" fluorescent light bulbs. It doesn't look like a natural black body curve, does it? Well, blacklight lamps are worse.
As a generic consumer, I find the classical light bulbs based on the black body radiation somewhat superior. They resemble the actual spectrum of the Sun more closely - the full interval of visible frequencies is represented. They don't blink 60 times a second. (These two problems are solved by the newest fluorescent models.) You don't have to be afraid that they're constantly emitting a lot of UV rays with unpredictable health consequences. In general, their environmental impact is more predictable.
Figure 2: Count the number of light bulbs in the clip "eSeMeS" by Lucie Bílá, a Czech singer.
Fluorescent light bulbs are more efficient energetically but they don't share the advantages of the incandescent light bulbs explained in the previous paragraph. The photographs taken under these light bulbs don't look great. Moreover, they use mercury. Most people discard them in uncontrollable ways and mercury is a poison that pollutes unpredictable places of the environment. The mercury from one fluorescent light bulb pollutes, according to some activist groups, 6000 gallons of water beyond levels safe for drinking. In 43 U.S. states, it is legal to dispose fluorescent bulbs as universal waste.
Update February 2008: The New York Times about the real and growing dangers of mercury in the fluorescent light bulbs - a call for a better system of recyclingThere are positive features and negative features of both of them. The incandescent light bulbs have not disappeared and there are very good reasons why they have not disappeared. All the aspects - energy consumption, friendliness of the color spectrum, difficulties with recycling etc. - have been considered by the market and the result is that both technologies have survived. The energy consumption is already accounted for - because people do pay for energy. The energy consumption is simply not a big problem which is why people use both types of light bulbs. In fact, the heat produced by the conventional light bulbs is not lost: especially during winter, it's often useful to add some extra source of heat to your living room.
It's unjustifiable if someone wants to double-count and pretend, for purely ideological reasons, that the energy consumption is more important than it is - while he bravely neglects other issues such as the difficulties with recycling.
As these blinded people promote hysteria against a perfectly innocent gas called carbon dioxide, people suddenly start to forget about some threats that are somewhat more real. Once again, one teaspoon of mercury can contaminate a 20 acre lake forever: the U.S. companies still emit roughly 30 tons of mercury a year. Be careful: I can't independently verify these numbers and I was told that this quantification of the toxicity of mercury is a myth.
The government may buy efficient fluorescent light bulbs for various public places in order to save energy and taxpayers' money. But I just find it scary to imagine that a government would get the right to effectively ban an innocent and popular technology from usage by general consumers for no good reason - unless you consider the megalomanic propaganda of global warming to be a reason and a magic tool that can defeat any rational argument.
For me, such brutal plans to cripple the freedom of civilized countries are just way too serious, and I would immediately join anyone who would start to fight against these shameful communist tendencies. ;-)
And that's the memo.