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electech #164934 06/14/07 12:29 PM
Joined: Jun 2006
Posts: 613
A funny thing comes to mind in reading this discussion. I recently watched a you tube video of a couple of guys smashing flourescent tubes on each other. They should all be dead soon from mercury poisoning (not dead yeat). Now we are making a huge fuss about the even smaller amount of mercury in a CFL.
Not trying to dismiss the issue but we can get pretty caught up in the hype. I would like to see a lamp disposal method that is more ecological. Oh the burden of all those relamping projects and the smashed tubes.

mikesh #165037 06/17/07 12:32 AM
Joined: Feb 2003
Posts: 288
Just the facts, ma'am.

Sorry this is long, but it is what it is.

Better to argue the facts.

I couldn't agree more.

All facts are merely assertions until supported by evidence. If you cannot produce evidence on your own, you have to supply a citation. That citation has to be credible.

If I call someone a liar, that's ad hominem. If I can produce evidence that a person or organization has a track record of producing false or misleading information, that's critical thinking. You won't get far arguing facts if you don't have some way of discriminating between credible and non-credible sources. My way of doing that might not be polite, but it's not ad hominem.

It really irks me when someone lays out a laundry list of assertions followed by a link to prisonplanet or any of the other Alex Jones websites, even if the assertions make sense. I never said that the dubious sourcing automatically meant the assertions were false (that would be ad hominem). I admit I dismissed the points laid out above a little more curtly than was called for, mainly because I was annoyed by the spurious citation. These are all real disadvantages of CFL technology. (Even a broken clock is right twice a day!)

Truth is, if someone lays out a list of assertions with a prisonplanet link, I will always point out that prisonplanet is not a credible source of information, even if the assertions are so well known to be factual that no reasonable person could possibly dispute them.

"Cigarette smoking dramatically increases cancer risks."
"The earth revolves around the sun in 365.26 day cycles."

And I will do so even at the risk of being accused of ad hominem.

It is my experience that Alex Jones has not displayed respect for facts. He is most certainly not an authority on structural failures, and probably not an authority on CFLs, either. Even if he were an expert, his reputation does not inspire confidence. If he supplied an interesting link, it could have been linked directly.

Steven Milloy, the author of the shrill and sensationalistic Fox article, works for the Competitive Enterprise Institute, an organization devoted to deceiving the public about global warming. He gets his money from polluting industries who would like to repeal the Clean Water Act, and only gets outraged about mercury pollution when he smells an opportunity to accuse environmentalists of hypocrisy. If you are aware of any facts when you start reading his drivel, they will soon be sucked out of your head and replaced with... I don't know, packing peanuts or something. Pointing this out is not ad hominem!

The best way to start a debate is to lay out the facts (or assertions, it's all good) in a neutral way. Don't make me wade through weird conspiracy rants or putrid right-wing BS to find them. Link to them directly!

yaktx #165038 06/17/07 12:38 AM
Joined: Feb 2003
Posts: 288
Independent Validation

Without proof or independent validation, I don't accept the lifespan data provided by any manufacturer as real-world.

Fair enough. I've done a fair amount of searching myself, and there doesn't seem to be any independent validation that is available to the public. I've often wondered about this myself. Over the years, I've considered wiring one in parallel with an hour meter just to check, but never gotten around to doing it. Even if I did, it would be anecdotal rather than statistically significant.

As I understand it, the claimed "lifespan" (e.g. 8,000 or 10,000 hours) is MTBF. Roughly, this means that at the predicted hour marker, 50% of the units will still be in operation. In the case of linear fluorescents, this applies to the lamp only, not the ballast. IEC 60969 is the operative standard for integrated-ballast CFLs in the EU, and covers the entire unit. Certainly, misapplication will negatively affect life expectancy. I know that nearly all CFL failures I have seen have been ballast failures.

As for the bad from stock scenario, I don't know if any data is collected on the number of BFS CFLs. I know it is far less than 25%, however!

Let's look at a parallel from the world of toilets. Many of us will recall that the Energy Policy Act of 1992 mandated that toilets sold in the US after 1996 could use no more than 1.6 gallons (6.0 liters) of water per flush. Most manufacturers hastily modified existing designs to use less water, with unsatisfactory results. Although this problem was largely fixed by 1999, it took much longer for the reputation of low-flush toilets to recover, and some people still will not modify their opinions of low-flush toilets no matter what new evidence comes to light.

Until recently, there was no way to evaluate the performance of a particular model of toilet other than hearsay, advertising claims, and the meager lists published by a few water utilities of models they had had good luck with.

Now we have a credible, unbiased, objective guide to which toilets really work. It is called the MaP study, and it's worth a read, if only for the hilarious detailed description (with photos!) of the "test media". If we had that for CFLs, it would settle a lot of debates.

As for the embodied energy of CFLs, that info is not publically available, either. The best you can find is a few educated guesses. They may be higher (and possibly better educated) than my guess, but they don't constitute proof.

Let's assume Rod Elliott's worst case estimate of 20kWh to manufacture a CFL, vs. 1kWh to manufacture an incandescent. Let's also assume the manufacturer's claimed MTBF, 1,000 h for incandescent and 8,000 h for CFL:

0.015kW* 8,000= 120kWh
0.06kW* 8,000= 480kWh
20kWh* unit CFL= 20kWh
1kWh/unit incand.* 8 units= 8kWh
120+20= 140
480+8= 488

Clearly, if the MTBF numbers are reliable, CFLs are the winner. The question is whether (and in what situations) they are reliable numbers. That is why independent scientific studies are needed.

yaktx #165039 06/17/07 12:49 AM
Joined: Feb 2003
Posts: 288
The Elephant in the Room

This is dirty stuff, and the pollution is real pollution, not just CO2.

Did you mean to say these pollutants are real toxins? I certainly hope that's what you intended to convey!

Mercury is indisputably toxic. CO2 is not, unless it displaces oxygen below a concentration of 19.5% in a confined space, and even that observation might stretch the clinical definition of toxicity. If we burn all of the fossil fuels left in the world with no restriction, the CO2 released will probably not displace enough to asphyxiate anyone. However, the few humans left living might wish it were so!

Any chemical, no matter how non-reactive, or how innocuous it might seem, is a pollutant if it is known to have deleterious effects on the natural environment. Before the present advancement of climate science, say, twenty-five years ago, there seemed to be no reason to regard CO2 as a pollutant. We can't afford to be so dismissive now.

This brings us back to arguing the facts: The debate over the banning of incandescent lighting is utterly nonsensical if the single salient fact of global warming is not acknowledged. Absent the understanding of global warming, the subject of bans falls into a deus ex machina narrative of evil, (communist/fascist, take your pick), sadistic and meddlesome bureaucrats invading our privacy for no clear reason whatsoever. Lots of people might like to view it this way, but it is not helpful. This graph puts it into perspective.

We can debate whether a specific legislative program in Australia, Ontario, or California is ill-advised (and I would tend to agree with Electech and others who fear the unintended consequences), but if you look at the big picture, it should be clear why governments are interested in lighting efficiency.

Slamming the brakes on global warming is a daunting task, economically and politically. Much of the technology to do it is expensive and slow in coming. Some of it does not even yet exist. Governments must do what they can, now, and lighting efficiency looks like low-hanging fruit. What's more, since the thermal efficiency of power generation currently hovers around 30%, every watt saved at the point of use saves three watts of fuel input.

If banning general-service incandescents is not the answer, and I'm not saying it is, what is? We can all be creative; let's come up with a better answer. Dismissing the question is not an option.

The legislator who proposed the California ban has softened his tone a bit. It seems GE is developing a super-efficient incandescent. Details are thin, of course, but it may have something to do with IR-reflective coatings. Keep the IR in, and the filament operates at a higher temperature, making it more efficient.

There may be a multitude of answers.

yaktx #165100 06/18/07 12:34 PM
Joined: Feb 2002
Posts: 114
Great replies. I agree with almost everything, except the concept of letting the suits decide what products we are allowed to by (I've got some libertarian leanings, can't help it. I also love my guns and don't care what other adults, consistent with not harming others, do in the privacy of their own homes. You know, all that crazy Bill of Rights stuff)

I would disagree with this statement though:

"The debate over the banning of incandescent lighting is utterly nonsensical if the single salient fact of global warming is not acknowledged"

First, but NOT foremost, because global warming may not be anything we can do, or have done, much about. We can use fewer fossil fuels. For example, Al Gore can stop jetting around the world telling everyone how bad we are - we get it now. But, our sun's output and cosmic radioation is beyond our control. In addition, there are some problems with data collection methods:

My main disagreement is with "banning" of anything by the government, and in particular something the market place has a perfect answer for. I have six CFL's at home now. It didn't take an act of congress for me to do this. I didn't even have to care one bit about the environment (though I do). As it happens, it is cheaper to use less of something than it is to use more. It is that simple. It makes sense to use CFL lighting in each of the applications I am using it in. My criticism is it seems that in the quest to get the government involved, some parties intentionally distort advantages of process/product A vs. process/product B. CFLs are good, but they are not the second coming of Christ. (the components used in their manufacture, lack of current recycling being big detractors)

Someone who cares about the environment, but calls bull.....oney on much of the global warming hype, will still find CFLs a smart choice. Producing energy produces REAL pollution. And yes it is toxins I'm speaking of. This is true whether the world is getting warmer or cooler, and whether we are the majority or a minority cause of it. Even with a heavy helping of global warming denial, we just don't need mercury, lead, benzine, sulfur compounds, etc. discharged into the air and our ground water. Its also easier to cool the house in the summer with fewer incandescents burning..

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