Turns Me Off

by Heather Rae

I drove along a dirt road to a place in the woods where the plow had left a berm of snow. Sasha, the cocker spaniel, and I continued on foot along a path, crunching through the ice-caked snow. The natural and architectural beauty of Sheepscot, Maine Hollywood could not hope to imitate. We followed the Sheepscot River which feeds to the Atlantic. We were – it turned out – trespassing: The path was a driveway leading to a 19th-century cape, pastel green and cream-trimmed, beside a modest cedar-shake barn. The house overlooked a sweeping field, an ice sheet glistening in the sun sloping down to the muddy flats of low tide.

Standing on the old lichen-dappled rock wall, I saw a lamppost alongside the driveway, its shade missing. The lamp held a compact fluorescent bulb. The bucolic setting was no worse for this swirly bulb.

Two days earlier in another reality, I was driving by WalMart with Rush Limbaugh on the radio. He was mocking a Barbara Walters interview with Laurie David, wife of “Seinfeld” producer Larry David and producer of “An Inconvenient Truth” – otherwise known as “Al Gore’s movie” which later in the week would win an Oscar.

Limbaugh said David was nothing but a Hollywood activist and as such, he questioned her qualifications to comment on climate change. He played a clip from Walters’ interview in which David says that if every homeowner in the country were to change five ordinary incandescent light bulbs to compact fluorescent light bulbs, it would be the equivalent of taking eight million cars off of the road. This “stat” sent off Limbaugh (apparently), and he said something to the effect that if anyone listening believed David about the light bulbs…if anyone thought changing light bulbs would make a bit of difference in addressing climate change…then “turn me off.”

So I did.

I can’t help but wonder…who is Rush Limbaugh to think he is any more qualified than Laurie David to comment? In adolescent, mocking tones, he chooses only some words carefully, like “climate change” in Luntzian fervor to align himself with science. Translation: his is not the global warming of Hollywood liberals and their politicized Oscar winner whom Limbaugh loves to deride. Call it global warming or climate change, to Limbaugh, it’s politics.

As a responsible service to his listeners, Limbaugh could (but likely won’t) read and talk about the benefits of CFLs. He could (but likely won’t) review the cost-benefit evaluations of CFLs out of California, Vermont, Minnesota and other states. Nor will he (likely) read a roundup, “Findings and “Gaps” in CFL Evaluation Research: Review of the Existing Literature” by Skumatz and Howlett. Below are some findings from that research (citations removed):

  • “CFLs were invented 25 years ago at Royal Philips Electronics. Compared to standard incandescent light bulbs, CFLs provide several key advantages: they use less energy, generate less heat, and last up to 10 times longer than standard bulbs. However, in the year 2000, after 20 years in the market, they still made up less than 0.5% of the market for light bulb sales – even with program efforts by utilities.”
  • “Nationally, it is estimated that CFLs comprised about 2% of screwbase lamp sales in 2004.”
  • “Although manufacturers have made inroads in compatibility between CFL and standard bulb fixtures, consumers may have had difficulties finding CFLs in locations where they normally purchase incandescent bulbs. One study has shown that while the greatest share of incandescent light bulbs are sold in grocery stores (31%), only 1.3% of CFLs are sold in the same location. Rather, the vast majority of CFLs (57%) are sold in home centers, with the next-largest share sold in hardware stores.”
  • “Results indicate that energy savings vary from 20-80 kWh per unit, depending on the situation, and the peak savings in watt per unit range from 2 to more than 5 watts per unit. Residential CFL loads peak at 20:00 to 21:00 and generally do not contribute to overall load during peak periods.”
  • “Retailer perceptions of the key advantages of CFLs align with those of householders. According to a study in California, they include: lower operating cost/energy savings, longer life, lower life-cycle costs, and less damage to the environment. Eighty percent of CFL purchasers reported they were at least as satisfied with the CFLs they purchased as with purchases of incandescents. More than one-third said they were more satisfied.”
  • “The review indicates that CFL technology has advanced and provides products with appealing features including performance similar to standard bulbs, good fit in fixtures, long lifetimes, and excellent savings. Early technical problems have been overcome for the most part, and price differentials are falling. However, prices in most areas still seem to be higher than most residents are willing to spend.”

Limbaugh might add that light bulbs are not the silver bullet, but they are part of the solutions for economic viability, national security, ecological sustenance and healthy futures for our children.

Limbaugh may think he needs to ask me to “turn him off” if I agree with an energy “stat” simply because it is voiced by a “Hollywood liberal,” but as a woman with an appreciation for integrity and intellect, I’m already so turned off by this man, he needn’t ask.

Heather Rae, a contributor to cleantechblog.com, manages a ‘whole house’ home performance program in Maine. In 2006, she built a biobus and drove it from Colorado to Maine. In 2007, she begins renovation of an 1880 farmhouse using building science and green building principles.

7 replies
  1. Lucky Buck
    Lucky Buck says:

    Rush is qualified because of his deep voice, experience in describing football games, and the MANY MANY listeners who don't realize he is an entertainer.I'm a leftie too.

  2. Anonymous
    Anonymous says:

    One question. CFL's – at least the ones I picked up at Home Depot and put in my house – contain mercury. I want to continue using them for the energy benefits, but disposing of them properly when they go out (which they eventually do) is a much bigger problem than with a conventional bulb, which I can throw in the trash. Any hints on how to solve this problem (either on the technology or disposal level)?Matt

  3. melissa
    melissa says:

    It's good to listen to what the Rush says from time to time if only to better understand his audience, the Twinkee nation. I have to admit that as a relatively eco-friendly person, Californian, organo-file–I only recently discovered the CFLs and only when I spent some time on the Energy Star sight did I finally get the big picture. Other than the art museum and a dressing room I think the world needs to go CFL!! But the big problem is consumer education, how do it best?? The DOE needs you!

  4. Anonymous
    Anonymous says:

    CFL's are all fine and good. In my experience they cost more and have to be replaced much more.So more bulbs in the landfill and Mercury in the soil to run down to kill the fishes etc. Building Nuclear power plants like the ones France has been using without incedent for years would be a better cleaner way of dealing with power plants that pollute.

  5. Alain Saffel
    Alain Saffel says:

    I think I might trust Rush Limbaugh's insight into prescription drug abuse more than I would his views on climate change.Let's hope that LED technology improves quickly so they can replace CFL. I don't like the mercury aspect of the CFL, so is anyone looking at alternatives to mercury?

  6. Anonymous
    Anonymous says:

    I'm curious where 'Anonymous' (10:58) purchased his CFL's from. I date every CFL I install, and I have several fixtures on timers, so I can multiply the number of days by the hours per day and come up with pretty accurate lifetime numbers. All my CFL's have lasted much longer than the incandescent bulbs in the same fixtures.Interestingly, some CFL's I buy are "guaranteed" to last 5 years, others 7. When I read the fine print for the number of hours per day assumed in these guarantees, and I compare to my actual measurements, I've found the guarantees to be very close to the actual bulb life. The 7 year bulbs often cost a little more than the 5 year bulbs, but it's like buying the three pound bag of candy at Halloween instead of the two pound bag. I pay only a little more to get a lot more.

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