Politics

Peaceful resistance: incandescent light bulb stockpilers defy the ban

Photo of Alexis Levinson
Alexis Levinson
Political Reporter

The choice of a chair for the Energy and Commerce Committee is viewed by many to be John Boehner’s first test as speaker; a bellwether for whether he will side with establishment Republicans or the more conservative incoming class of representatives, many of whom are closely aligned with the Tea Party. But for Walter Smith (a Daily Caller pseudonym for a source who didn’t want his name to be used) the decision, which is likely to be between Rep. Joe Barton of Texas and Rep. Fred Upton of Michigan, is much more momentous, and will have a far more direct effect on his life.

Smith stockpiles incandescent light bulbs. He has been collecting them for three years now, ever since the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007 passed. The act, which imposed a de-facto ban on incandescent bulbs by 2012, was co-sponsored by Upton. In September, Barton co-authored legislation to turn back that part of the bill.

Smith currently has about a thousand incandescent bulbs, which he keeps in boxes in his garage.

“It doesn’t take as much space as you think it does,” he told The Daily Caller. “It’s just a couple large boxes.”

“I buy different wattages,” he explained. “Usually…40 to 100, but I’m trying to focus on 100 lately cause I know those are the first ones to go.”

In an interview with TheDC, Smith explained his many reasons for embarking on what many may see as an eccentric pursuit. “The bill is a nightmare,” he said. “It’s a complete, utter nightmare.”

First of all, the more energy efficient heir apparent to incandescent bulbs, Compact Fluorescent Bulbs (CFLs), have a tendency to burst into flames. As an experiment, he said, he combined “a regular CFL bulb, and a socket, and a dimmer. I had fireworks within five minutes.”

There’s also an aesthetic component to it. “It’s the color temperature,” Smith said. “The quality of light is just nowhere near what incandescents can do.”

Moreover, Smith, who is skeptical of “the global warming conspiracy” in general, feels that the claims of energy savings associated with CFLs are unsubstantiated. In part, this is a function of how they are used. Energy Star, the certification program for “green” products, suggests that a CFL should be left on for a minimum of 15 minutes to achieve maximum energy savings. This makes CFLs unsuitable for certain applications. For instance, Smith cited the example of the bathroom at an elementary school where he teaches as a substitute.

The constant turning on and off of the lights meant that, at one point, the janitor came in and “he was replacing that same bulb for the third time in three days, ‘cause the on-off cycle was killing them.” The janitor, Smith said, “was also stocking up” on incandescent bulbs.