Getting the light bulb story right

Every reporter who says the government is banning incandescent bulbs should be required to swallow one of these.

As you know, I’m a bit of a stickler for accuracy when it comes to light bulb stories.

So when I got an email from the otherwise excellent Miller-McCune Magazine promoting a new “the government is forcing you to buy CFLs” post, I politely replied, explaining that the article was based on a false political narrative. Miller-McCune‘s managing editor asked me to write a response, which is posted here.

As I note in the piece, the confusion in light bulb coverage comes from an urge to find a simplified, conflict-based narrative that readers can latch on to. We’re naturally drawn to conflict – a couple having a polite disagreement in public won’t garner much attention, but when it escalates into a fistfight, we’ll drop everything and watch.

And so a lot of people believe the government is banning incandescent bulbs and forcing everyone to buy CFLs. It’s a tight, concise narrative that’s easy to understand. The fact that it’s completely false seems to be a secondary consideration for many journalists.

So you can imagine my pleasure this morning after seeing a news story that actually gets it right. The Cleveland Plain Dealer had a brief item over the weekend about the Billy Baldwin of the light bulb world, halogens.

The halogen bulbs contain a small tubular halogen light. It provides the same light as a standard 60-watt and 100-watt bulbs but uses less power.

For example, the Sylvania Halogen Super Save replacement for the traditional 100-watt incandescent bulb uses 72 watts.

And the Philips EcoVantage replacement for the old-fashioned 60-watt incandescent uses 43 watts.

But the halogen bulbs still qualify as incandescents, meaning they create light by passing electricity through a metal filament until it becomes so hot that it glows.

Congress did not ban incandescent bulbs, just inefficient incandescent bulbs. (emphasis mine)

That wasn’t so hard, was it?

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