Friday, January 4, 2008

Light Bulbs, Things of the Past

Of all things created, the light bulb is no doubt one of the most fantastic and wonderful inventions.

The advancements by humans made possible by this, the simple incandescent light bulb, now a common everyday necessity would seem impossible to become the possession of a few for unimaginable profit.

Oh well, never underestimate the determination of some with government regulation to take away such a simple and inexpensive product. Replace the bulb we all know so well with a more costly and toxic product.

It doesn't matter if that is what people want because by government fiat we will have no choice.
Bye Bye, Light Bulb
If only Microsoft could argue its competitors hurt the environment
BY BRIAN M. CARNEY Wednesday, January 2, 2008 12:01 a.m. EST

Just like that--like flipping a switch--Congress and the president banned incandescent light bulbs last month. OK, they did not exactly ban them. But the energy bill passed by Congress and signed by President Bush sets energy-efficiency standards for light bulbs that traditional incandescent bulbs cannot meet.

The new rules phase in starting in 2012, but don't be lulled by that five-year delay. Whether it's next week or next decade, you will one day walk into a hardware store looking for a 100-watt bulb--and there won't be any. By 2014, the new efficiency standards will apply to 75-watt, 60-watt and 40-watt bulbs too.

Representatives of Philips and General Electric, two of the biggest lightbulb makers, say there's nothing to be concerned about. And Larry Lauck of the American Lighting Association says, "I think everyone's pretty happy" with the new law. But then, the lighting industry has no reason not to be: People will need light, whatever the law says--according to Randy Moorehead of Philips, there are four billion standard-size (or "medium base") light sockets in America alone.

So if you're GE or Philips or Sylvania, the demise of the plain vanilla lightbulb is less a threat than an opportunity--an opportunity, in particular, to replace a product that you can sell for 50 cents with one that sells for $3 or more.

Yes, the $3 bulb lasts longer. Yes, it cuts your electricity bill. Mr. Moorehead says that when every one of those four billion light sockets has an energy-saving bulb in it, the country will be saving $18 billion a year on its electric bill. That's $4.50 per bulb--and the bulb makers are standing by to make sure a substantial portion of those "savings" get transformed into profits for them.

Now it may be that those bulbs are worth more--because they last longer, etc. But some of those bulbs, like compact fluorescents and Philips' new "Halogena-IR" bulb, are already available. Currently they command all of 5% of the lightbulb market. That means that, whatever value proposition GE and Philips are selling, consumers aren't buying.

What we bulb buyers needed, it seemed, was a little nudge. Or, if you want to be cynical about it, the bulb business decided to migrate its customers to more-expensive--and presumably higher-margin--products by banning the low-cost competition.

"I was kind of involved at the very beginning" of this legislation, Mr. Moorehead says modestly. Indeed, in December 2006, Philips announced a campaign to encourage governments all around the world to phase out low-cost bulbs by 2015.

Now, I'm sure that Philips and GE and Sylvania all want to make the world a better place and so on. But if they can do so while at the same time getting the government to force their customers to pay 10 times as much for their products, well . . . did they mention that they're making the world a better place? The light bulb that costs 10 times as much does, it is true, last four times as long. But if you're a lightbulb maker, that's a pretty good trade.

If you're a consumer, you have to decide that for yourself. Except that, after the ban, you won't be allowed to any more. You just got traded up, forcibly, to a "better" product.

What's remarkable about this bit of market interference is that there is, basically, nothing wrong with the present-day, Edison-style lightbulb. It's not a lawn dart or a lead-painted toy or a magnet that will perforate your kid's intestines if he swallows it.
It is what it is, and for most people in most applications, it was good enough. So the lightbulb makers and the environmentalists convinced Congress to ban them for no better reason than they believed everyone would be better off with something else.

Note that the lightbulb makers didn't need a ban to convince consumers to "upgrade." Microsoft, Dell, Apple and any number of other companies manage to convince the Joneses that they need a better "one"--whatever it is--every few years. If Philips wanted a Halogena-IR bulb in every socket, it had only to put them on the market at a price that made them irresistible compared to the 50-cent bulb of yore. Likewise with the much hailed compact fluorescent. They have been on the market a good deal longer than Philips's fancy new incandescent. The prices have come down and the quality has gone up. But not, apparently, enough for 95% of the bulb-buying public.

A few years back, one could have argued with a straight face that consumer awareness of the benefits of CFLs was inadequate. No more. The sticking point lies at that ineffable nexus between price and quality--with all that "quality" implies, whether it be service life, the delay between flicking the switch and full power, or color temperature or the look of the thing.

There are billions to be made--and spent--figuring out how to get consumers to pay more for something. This year Steve Jobs convinced a million people to pay $400 for a cell phone in a market in which many people believe that the phone should come free with a service contract. But why worry about making a product so good people feel they have to have it, when you can instead get the government to tell them they have no choice?

Don't fault the bulb makers for this. If Microsoft could get a law passed requiring users to upgrade Windows, they'd probably go for it, too. Same with Detroit--"Buy a hybrid, or else!" would probably suit them fine. But do remember this the next time a company goes to Washington to save the world: They'll end up doing it at your expense.

Mr. Carney is a member of The Wall Street Journal's editorial board.

Emissions Down, That is the Bad News

It really makes one wonder, just what is the real agenda here.

Earth is warming, OK I can live with that, but what are we suppose to do about it?

Some folk would have you believe that it is all because of human activity. Well, if so, so be it.

What makes me question the motives of some is representative in this article. Comply and even exceed demands of the radical left we find out that this isn't enough.

A reasonable person would expect this article to be in the Opinion page.

Emissions down, but lasting efforts may suffer

By Beth Daley
Globe Staff / January 3, 2008

Greenhouse gas emissions from Northeast power plants were about 10 percent lower than predicted during the last two years, because of milder weather and increased reliance on natural gas instead of oil.

But the decrease may have some unanticipated consequences for efforts to combat global warming: It could have the perverse effect of delaying more lasting reductions, by undercutting incentives intended to spur power plants to invest in cleaner technologies and energy efficiency.

Oh gee, now what?

Massachusetts and nine other Northeast states are part of a landmark pact called the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative that is designed to cap power plant emissions in 2009 and then gradually reduce them by 10 percent over the next decade. Power plants will have to buy emission allowances from states for every ton of carbon dioxide they emit, with plants that emit larger amounts having to buy more allowances than cleaner ones. The number of available allowances will decrease as the overall cap is lowered, raising their price and, with hope, encouraging plants to invest in clean technologies to avoid the higher cost of polluting.

But if emissions are significantly lower than the cap, there would be less demand for allowances, driving down their price and giving power plants little financial incentive to invest in cleaner and more efficient technologies.

Geezes, do we see a trend here or what?

"If the cap is above what power plants are emitting, we won't see any change in their behavior," said Derek K. Murrow, director of policy analysis for Environment Northeast, a nonprofit research and advocacy organization. "They just continue business as usual."

Hey buddy, you are the one who set the caps.

You got the results you wanted, what more do you want?

Power plants will have to buy emission allowances from states for every ton of carbon dioxide they emit,

And that is just what you want, money.

Sunday, December 30, 2007

Hezbollah & North Korea Connection

It is most diffcult for me to truly understand the thinking of Kim Jong-il, but then I am not a loony dictator with a bad hair day, everyday ruling over a starving country.

What is really perplexing to me is that anybody would think they would have any sway with that fruitcake.

Of course this has everything to do with the only nation with any power that knows how to use this useful idiot.

Report: N. Korea gave Hezbollah aid when IDF quit Lebanon in 2000
By Haaretz Service and News Agencies

The Lebanese-based Hezbollah organization received military aid from North Korea after the Israel Defense Forces left south Lebanon in 2000, Army Radio reported on Thursday, quoting a recent report by the U.S. Congressional Research Service.

According to the sources referenced in the congressional report, North Korean experts trained guerillas from the Syrian and Iranian-backed group in building bunkers and storing weapons, food and medical supplies.

The report said the aid "significantly improved Hezbollah's ability to fight the Israelis" during the Second Lebanon War in 2006, according to the radio.

An IDF soldier standing beside a Hezbollah bunker in southern Lebanon during the war last summer. (Yarom Kaminsky)

The CRS document also cited a report by a prominent South Korean academic, Moon Chung-in, that the Mossad intelligence agency believed that "vital missile components" used by Hezbollah against Israel came from North Korea.

Both Hezbollah and North Korea are reported to have military ties with Syria. During last summer's fighting in Lebanon, Hezbollah received direct intelligence support from Syria, using data collected by listening posts jointly manned by Russian and Syrian crews.

Hezbollah was also fed intelligence from new listening posts built on the Syrian side of the Golan Heights, which are operated jointly with Iran.

North Korea, which has been embroiled recently in an international row over its nuclear development program, was accused by a senior U.S. official of sending secret suppliers to Syria to provide it with nuclear equipment.

In September 2007, the Israel Air Force struck a target in Syria which was later reported to have been a nuclear facility built with North Korean know-how.

The Syrian ambassador to the U.S., Imad Moustapha, vehemently denied the reports of North Korean nuclear assistance, calling them "absolutely, totally, fundamentally ridiculous and untrue."