To be banned by the EU

Most luvvies seem to be Remoaner types these days. Wonder if anyone’s told them what’s going to happen if we stay in, that near all the theatre lights in the country will have to be shut off. I imagine the reaction to that would be only one decibel lower than the screams if greasepaint were to be abolished. But this is what is on the cards:

Britain’s theatre industry is under threat as the European Union plans to ban energy-sapping lighting which could force venues to close.

In the last decade, EU energy-saving regulations have changed the bulbs we use in our homes, stopped the sale of high powered vacuum cleaners and now they could be about to alter what we see on stage.

Through the Eco-design Working Plan 2016-2019, the EU wants to force manufacturers to reduce power and increase efficiency in products using the same rules that apply to domestic, office and industrial lighting.

Campaigners are warning that abolishing an exemption which currently allows theatres to use energy-heavy tungsten bulbs could be creatively “disastrous” and force many smaller venues to close.

All of which is an interesting proof of two contentions. That continental manner of making rules for everything doesn’t in fact work. For who, when designing the allowable light bulb rules for 500 million people, would be able to think of what happens to AmDram in Radstock? A useful little proof of why economists so like Pigou Taxes instead of regulation – jam one crowbar into the price system then let the market do the calculating for you.

The second is that the original justification for the ban on certain types of lightbulbs must clearly have been a lie. For we were told a decade back that the new ones, CFLs and then LEDs, would be much cheaper. Over the total acquisition and use costs. Theatres are commercial organisations even if many are non-profit. They would have changed if this were true. A law forcing them to change shows they haven’t, doesn’t it? Therefore that initial claim isn’t true either, is it?

The major problem with the EU is that it’s just not the way to run a continent.

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  1. I’m sitting in the lighting box during a rehearsal and the director yells to me, “Number Seven is burning!” I look at the lighting script and shout back that Number Seven is indeed supposed to be lit. “No, it’s burning!” Oh happy days.

  2. Probably because you can’t fade up/down energy saving bulbs. Same reason why there was a loud pop and then darkness when i realised that the pillock who owned my house before me had fitted an energy saving chandelier to a dimmer switch.

    • You really can fade energy saving bulbs. You can’t with CFL lights, but you can with LEDs.

      LEDs are very weak. So any bulb that lights up a room, let alone any bulb strong enough for stage lights is composed of dozens if not hundreds of small LEDs. A controller can easily light up only a few of them – as many as needed.

      What is true is that you can’t fade them by reducing the voltage from the control box. The controller sits in the fixture or the bulb. So it’s not a simple matter of swapping out an old tungsten bulb for a new LED bulb. It’s a matter of replacing the control box and running a signal wire (or more likely, setting up some wifi) to all the fixtures. That’s a far more expensive thing that changing out the light in your home.

      • Cree markets a line of LED house light bulbs that dim when the voltage is reduced, even using old-style BSR/X10 remote-control switches. These are not direct replacements for theater lighting, but someone has surely designed gear to replace theater lighting, including writing the sales pitch that theaters will save money. (Or, if the savings don’t yet justify the cost of the upgrade, going straight to Brussels to get their product mandated.)

  3. Tim, you are quite right that economics tells us that energy-saving lighting is not in the interest of theaters. But as always, your final nod to a Pigou Tax is not a valiant defense of their right to measure their self-interest, but a cute gimmick under which their measurement yields the wrong result. We coerce them and they never know it but blame their vendors for the high prices.

  4. @Spike – Maybe I’ve heard the Worstall credo too many times, but my interpretation of what was written was rather along the lines of Pigouvian taxes being less bad than other forms of tax and certainly far better than “The Absolute Shall” of outright prohibition.

    • I don’t agree; a flat, low tax that simply does the unpleasant business of raising funds for necessary government beats a tax with busybodyism in its marrow, even though it gives the taxpayer wiggle room in the implementation. The opponent of busybodyism concedes the need to “do something” but credits himself for making it a gentler something – though if the desired result is not forthcoming in the desired quantity, The Absolute Shall inevitably follows, as in recycling.

  5. I would prefer a bad set of regulations or a horrible intrusive tax to a Pigou tax because then the revolution, lamp-posts, rope, tar and feathers will come all the sooner.

    High time the Tree of Liberty is refreshed.

  6. As with so many things, the prodnoses look at the amount of energy consumed by something in use and ignore that required to make it. Yes, you *can* make a LED lamp that dims from an old-school 15A/channel dimmer pack but it will be expensive because of all the effort that goes into making the drivers that make it work. Manufacturing an incandescent lamp that does the same job is a lot, lot cheaper because so much less energy/resources/labour goes into the making.

    Most of the large commercial theatres that I have seen have used DMX dimmers for yonks, and have in the last 5-10 years switched all their fixtures to DMX-controlled LED ones. This would have been a commercial decision that the higher reliability, on-fixture colour mixing and lower electricity costs made them a worthwhile investment because they are using them all the time. This happened with no interference from the prodnoses.

    Little Wington-in-the-Marsh Amateur Dramatic Society [note: fictitious] puts on two shows a year and owns a couple of dozen lighting fixtures. Lamps for their fixtures last ~10 years, meaning that they have to replace on average a little over one lamp per show at a cost of somewhere between £5 and £20 per pop depending on exactly what the lamp is. That’s affordable. Replacing an incandescent lamp with LED might save the village hall 10p per year in electricity at a cost of £70 is not affordable and will have whole-life costs greater than the incandescent lamp — which represents a greater overall use of resources to produce the same outcome, and probably a greater use of energy, too. Well done, the prodnoses.