We all recall when we used to use incandescent light bulbs. Simple, cheap, the result of a century’s worth of fiddling with the basic technology to make it around and about right for the use to which it was put.
Then they were banned. Sure, there was that energy and thus planet saving argument but that was always very weak indeed. It was an excuse, not the actual reason itself. The reason was that the big three manufacturers, Phillips, Osram and GE, had invested heavily in the next generation of technology, compact fluorescents. These cost not pennies per bulb but pounds. Rather better profit margins that is. Oh, and also, not subject to that crippling competition from China.
So, we get the EU ban on incandescents, driven entirely by the manufacturers. There’s a lot of the Baptist and Bootlegger in here given the environmentalist support for it.
The problem with the technology being the use of mercury in those bulbs.
An aside, I made my living for a number of years selling weird metals that are added to that mercury. I do actually know quite a bit about the nuts and bolts here. I’m also out of the business and have been for a decade and more. So it’s knowledge driving this, not knife sharpening.
Mercury’s not good stuff to have floating around. So, what happens next? Yep, a decade or a bit more after the incandescents were banned so now they’re coming for the CFLs.
A row over lamps is emerging as a first major test of the EU’s commitment to its much-vaunted European Green Deal and the bloc’s target of carbon neutrality by the middle of the century.
A debate over the continued use of mercury in fluorescent lighting has split the 27 member states with Germany’s industrial interests being pitted against the environmental concerns of Sweden, according to leaked correspondence.
The European commission is being asked by Germany, the Netherlands, Hungary, Poland and the Czech Republic to continue to allow manufacturers to use mercury in light bulbs despite the potential damage to the environment and human health.
The three main companies in the sector, General Electric, Philips and Osram, are major employers, particularly of German and Hungarian workers.
See, the argument is about the producers, as it was before.
The current argument being that LEDs are now good enough that we don’t need to risk the mercury. They might even be right in that.
So, why isn’t the industry happy about this idea? Well, the truth is that LED technology, the ability to manufacture it, use it well, is widely dispersed. Those no name Chinese factories can make the things in a manner that they can’t really the CFLs. There’re also no import restrictions given that there’re none of those mercury etc issues over the tech.
The banning of the incandescents was the creation of an oligopoly for the big companies. The banning of CFLs would be the destruction of one given their lack of control over LED tech.
Gonna be fun to see which way it goes but given the way the EU operates my best guess is that the companies will win – no CFL ban.