How many legislators does it take…

first_img 160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set! IN one masterful stroke, Assemblyman Lloyd Levine, D-Van Nuys, has established himself as the dim bulb of the California Legislature. Levine is pushing legislation that would outlaw standard (incandescent) light bulbs. In their place, he’d force us to buy costly screw-in fluorescents. Levine’s commitment to energy conservation and efficiency is admirable. But his path to a “brighter” future isn’t the way to achieve it. His proposal is ill-conceived and rife with unintended consequences – government gone wild. Don’t get me wrong. Compact fluorescent bulbs confer a number of benefits compared to traditional incandescents. They’re more efficient, so they use less energy. And they last much longer, so their long-term cost of ownership is less than standard bulbs. The fundamental problem, though, is how far are we willing to let government intrude into our living rooms? Levine’s proposal is the embodiment of the oppressive “nanny state.” In this misbegotten model, government knows best and will dictate how we’ll live, like it or not. So, for Levine, the subordination of free choice to his personal vision of “the common good” isn’t a problem, notwithstanding its socialist overtones. But, hey, we’re all for the common good. The problem with Levine’s way of achieving it is that he creates as many problems as he purports to solve. First off, incandescent lights offer a much warmer and pleasing quality of light than do fluorescents, even so-called warm fluorescents. Homes lit with fluorescent lighting have a much colder and more inhospitable quality than those lit by incandescents. The “color rendering index” for fluorescents will always be lower than incandescents. That’s just the way it is. Additionally, you may be interested to learn that, for graphic designers and visual artists, full-spectrum incandescent lighting is a requirement, not a luxury. Full-spectrum incandescents replicate the visual spectrum of sunlight, providing a critical evaluative tool for visual artists. What’s Levine’s answer to them? Well, we could get them a special exemption, perhaps. Can you imagine having to apply to the government to get a waiver to use a special type of light bulb? The way bureaucracies run, it could take years before your application was approved, assuming it would be in the first place. Although after a few years, the agencies supervising light-bulb use could implement a “fast track” process cutting the waiting time to a matter of months. Levine should well know that prohibition, such as he proposes, merely creates thriving secondary or black markets, whether for booze, dope or light bulbs. Accordingly, Californians who prefer incandescent bulbs will merely buy them online from out-of-state suppliers, depriving California of needed sales tax revenue and the circulation of locally spent money in our economy. What’s more, screw-in fluorescents are orders of magnitude more expensive to buy than incandescents, regardless of their lower long-term cost of ownership. What about the economically challenged families in our state who can barely put food on the table, let alone spend $10 for a single bulb? Does Levine propose that they sit in the dark? How’s that in the common good? Also, governments at any level typically have a poor record of picking winners and losers in the marketplace. People are free to buy screw-in fluorescents if they prefer at this very moment. In fact, sales have increased every year since the bulbs’ introduction. So people who value the benefits of compact fluorescents can vote with their wallets, which they’ve done. Levine also fails to consider the unusually wide range of applications for incandescent light bulbs. What about the light bulbs in my refrigerator and clothes dryer, as examples? Am I going to have to fumble around in the dark because it’s economically unfeasible for a manufacturer to replace the myriad special-use incandescents with fluorescents? Who will bother manufacturing the 7-watt incandescent for my bedside lamp, or the special 25-watt chandelier bulbs for my dining room? And, of course, no law has meaning without enforcement. Are the Light Bulb Police going to bust through my front door because I “bootlegged” a light bulb from out of state? Can you imagine trying to administer enforcement of Levine’s law? Well, he obviously hasn’t. I can just see me in an interrogation chamber under the hot lights – wait a minute, they’re cool fluorescents. I’ll never crack! Billy Bauman is a business development and marketing consultant based in Van Nuys.last_img read more