Young turks, and “working people” who are too busy to watch TBS at 2:00 p.m. (oh sure, like your job is so great), will miss the Crocodile Dundee reference. And they are all the culturally poorer for it.
…Anywho, getting to the point: Australia is phasing out all sales of Thomas Edison’s famous bulb by 2010. That means that, minus the odd leftover, old-style bulbs will be entirely out of use by 2012, largely replaced by the mighty CFL (compact fluorescent lightbulb). California and New Jersey have bills in front of their state legislatures proposing bans too (it’s only for government buildings in Jersey). CFL giveaways and trade-ins have been initiated in Cuba, Venezuela, Jamaica, South Africa. Those countries aren’t leading the cause, so much as keeping the lights on: their energy production is anemic enough that they suffer from regular blackouts when power usage peaks.
So, what’s it worth?
What’s the impact? Well, in Australia, which put out about 565M tons of CO2 in 2004, the environment minister’s estimate is that the bulb switch will eventually mean a reduction of about 4M tons every year. So assuming some growth in other emissions, that’s about 2/3 of 1%. It’s more than nothing, but it’s also far less than emissions will grow over the next few years from other sources.
So while a ban is striking and comparatively bold, there’s a danger is in giving this so much fanfare that it saps political will from other CO2-reduction efforts. Plus, Australia’s PM is John Howard, a man very much in line with George W. Bush on both the Iraq war and refusal to sign on to the Kyoto accord. He’s a friend of the coal industry down under, so we can’t bank on him acquiescing to larger measures in the future.
What about the US? Energy Star figures say that if every household switched out just 1 old bulb, it would have the same CO2-reducing effect as taking a million cars off the roads. Switching out 5 bulbs in every household would remove the need for “20 power plants, 8 million cars, and $6B in energy costs”. We’re not sure how 5 bulbs create 8 times the result of 1 bulb, but our government says so and they never, never lie. Not ever.
Here’s Australia’s official statement.