Thursday, February 28, 2008

Lobbied Lightbulb Lunacy Benefits General Electric & Phillips at Economic, Environmental & Health Risks to Consumers; Substandard Performance to Boot

Some Turned Off by Spiral Light Bulbs

By Elizabeth Weise,

USA Today

Posted: 2008-02-28 12:06:30

Filed Under: Nation News

(Feb. 28) - Their spiral design is a symbol of "going green," the movement to make homes and living more energy-efficient. And sales of compact fluorescent lights, or CFLs, are booming: They made up 20% of the U.S. light bulb market in 2007, the Environmental Protection Agency says, up from 11% a year earlier.

Sales probably will continue rising as traditional incandescent bulbs begin disappearing from stores because of Congress' mandate that light bulbs be at least 25% more efficient by 2012.

Wal-Mart, Home Depot, IKEA and other major retailers now sell a range of CFLs, which typically use nearly 75% less energy than regular bulbs.

Donald King, AP

Compact fluorescent lights use about a quarter of the energy of traditional light bulbs, but many consumers say that despite the cost savings in the long run, CFLs don't work as well as incandescent lights.

But now that more people are using CFLs, the bulbs' shortcomings are giving some consumers pause. Consumers are raising concerns about the quality of light from such bulbs and say they often don't work well with dimmer switches, in certain light fixtures or in hot or cold conditions.

And although fluorescent bulbs are less expensive to use in the long run, some consumers are turned off by the cost: $3 to $10, compared with about 50 cents for regular bulbs. Meanwhile, retailers such as IKEA are setting up recycling programs in response to concerns about how to dispose of CFLs, which contain mercury and could pose a health hazard if they break and are not cleaned up properly.

Such drawbacks help explain why, even though one in five bulbs sold in the USA is now a compact fluorescent, a lower percentage of American homes - estimates run as low as 11% - have at least one of the bulbs.

Connie Samla, a lighting specialist at the Municipal Utility District in Sacramento, cites the 11% figure as a symbol of many consumers' reluctance to accept fluorescent bulbs. She says such sentiments are rooted in the problems of the early versions of such bulbs during the 1990s, when they produced a sickly green or blue light.

"They're used to fluorescent lamps flickering and having a horrible color, and they don't want to have them in their home," says Samla. Her agency now holds classes to teach residents what to expect from CFL bulbs. Some common complaints about compact fluorescents:

--They don't start out at full brightness. The bulbs can take up to a minute to reach full glow. That took a while for Kay Drey of St. Louis to get used to. "It was a little alarming at first," she says, "but then they brightened up."

--They're temperature-sensitive. If it gets much below 30 degrees, "they won't start up very quickly," Samla says. Because the phosphor in CFL bulbs that emits light takes awhile to warm up, the bulbs "like to be a little warmer. But if you get them too hot, they don't like that. They love 77 degrees: office temperature."

CFL bulbs also burn out quicker if they're in a hot environment such as inside a light fixture, says Noah Horowitz, a scientist with the Natural Resources Defense Council: "If you put it in an enclosed fixture, maybe it will last 3,000 or 5,000 hours, not 10,000." He notes, however, that even a reduced life for a fluorescent bulb tops the life of a typical incandescent bulb, usually 750 to 1,000 hours.

--One size does not fit all. The more light a CFL puts out, the bigger it must be. The CFL equivalent of a 60-watt bulb is tiny. The 120-watt equivalent is bigger and won't fit in many lamps and fixtures.

That's a problem for Drey, 74, whose house is about as old as she is. "I have old lamps, so (CFL bulbs) don't fit everywhere. But where they do fit, we have them in."

--Many CFL bulbs don't work well with dimmer switches and three-way light fixtures. A few will work, but they're hard to find. "If you put a regular CFL on a dimmer, in some cases it will hum and snap; it won't live as long, and it won't dim," Horowitz says.

When used with a dimmer switch, CFL bulbs typically will dim to about 20% of their full intensity and then cut out. They also must be turned on at a high setting and then dimmed, says Philip Scarbro, consumer division director at Energy Federation Incorporated, a group that promotes conservation.

When used in a three-way light fixture, many CFL bulbs will pop, hiss and buzz. There are a few three-way CFL bulbs, but they're tough to find and so big they do not fit in many lamps. Such bulbs often come with adaptors to lengthen the lamp's harp so the bulb will fit.

--They're still not widely available. Most supermarkets carry a limited supply of CFL bulbs. For more variety, buyers must go to a hardware store or a larger retailer such as Home Depot or Wal-Mart. Some have begun ordering fluorescent bulbs online, from websites such as and

'I don't like the quality'

For many consumers, the reluctance to use CFLs comes down to the dingy light they can emit and questions about their safety.

CFLs give off a different color of light than incandescent bulbs. A measure of that is the color rendering index (CRI), which indicates how "true" colors will look. A CRI of 100 is sunlight or an incandescent bulb. Most CFLs are rated in the 80s, Scarbro says.

That's close enough to an incandescent light that many people won't notice, says Bill Burke, an architect who teaches builders how to use fluorescent lighting at Pacific Gas and Electric's Pacific Energy Center in San Francisco.

But, it's not close enough for amateur photographer Eric Chan of Belmont, Mass.

"I don't like the quality" of CFL bulbs, Chan says. "As a photographer who produces my own color prints, I am unusually picky about how these prints ought to look. They look fine under daylight, incandescent and halogen bulbs but appear mediocre in comparison when lit by CFL bulbs."

CFLs are significantly brighter than the fluorescent lights used in schools and offices during the 1960s and 1970s. Those lights typically have a CRI rating of about 25.

Today, companies such as GE and Philips are starting to market what they call "natural" or "full spectrum" CFLs. They're closer to incandescent but not quite as bright.

CFL bulbs are best in table or floor lamps with a shade, Samla says. "They have such good colors now that you can't tell."

Unlike incandescent bulbs, however, compact fluorescents can pose a health hazard. CFL bulbs usually contain 3 to 5 milligrams of mercury, although new types have as little as 1 to 2 milligrams. Mercury is a toxin that can be particularly dangerous to children and fetuses.

There's no danger in using CFL bulbs, but if they break, users should don plastic gloves and take steps to avoid contamination.

If a CFL breaks, stay calm, Scarbro says. It's not quite a hazardous-material situation: The amount of mercury in a CFL bulb is tiny compared with older thermometers used to measure temperatures, which had about 400 milligrams.

After a CFL bulb breaks, simply "open the windows and doors, sweep up the glass and throw it away," Scarbro says. "You shouldn't vacuum because that will take whatever level of mercury airborne. But it's not enough to close off the room and call EPA."

He says old CFL bulbs should be recycled or disposed of like other hazardous waste such as paint. Some governments have begun CFL bulb recycling programs, as have IKEA and a few other retailers. One company, Veoliaes Environmental Services, accepts old bulbs by mail for recycling.

But there is no national recycling system, and frustration over the availability of recycling programs is raising questions about how long it will take such programs to catch on. Drey says she called a hotline run by the maker of her bulbs to learn how to recycle them. "It was not an easy thing to do," she says.

Scarbro and other CFL advocates say that even if such bulbs are thrown into the trash, each CFL bulb represents a net reduction of mercury in the environment compared with each incandescent bulb. That's because the amount of mercury generated by a power plant to light a CFL bulb is dramatically less than that generated to light an incandescent bulb, Scarbro says.

Federal officials agree that the energy saved by CFL bulbs makes them worthwhile.

Lighting typically makes up about 20% of a household's electric bill. Because CFLs are close to 75% more efficient than regular light bulbs, the EPA estimates that if every home in America replaced just one light bulb with a CFL bulb rated highly by the agency, the USA would save enough energy to light more than 3 million homes for a year and more than $600 million in annual energy costs. It also would prevent greenhouse gases equivalent to the emissions of more than 800,000 cars, the EPA says. [????? WHERE'S THE PROOF???]

Trying to save energy

That was Veson Terry's motivation. He just moved from an apartment in San Francisco where the utilities were paid to a condo in Daly City, Calif., where he pays the bills. "I decided I want to see whether this stuff really works." So he has swapped out every incandescent bulb in his unit for a CFL.

He even has them in his dining room's chandelier, though it means he can't use the dimmer. Even so, he's pleased with the results. The top swirl of the bulbs sticks out of the lamps, "but I don't care, just as long as I can save energy."

CFL bulbs were invented in 1976 by Ed Hammer, a General Electric engineer. They were a response to the energy crisis of 1973-1974. But his spiral tube design was too expensive to make and too fragile to ship, so GE shelved it.

A more incandescent-like warm white CFL was developed by Phillips in 1982. It wasn't until 1995 that a cost-effective, durable spiral design was introduced. But there were many problems with the original CFLs, making some early adopters swear off them forever.

Besides their unflattering light, they didn't last as long as they do now - 1,000 hours then, up to 15,000 hours today. They also were more expensive: $10 to $20, compared with as little as $3 today.

Horowitz acknowledges the shortcomings of CFLs but says the congressional mandate to boost efficiency will push manufacturers to keep coming up with better bulbs.

"This is an easy way to address global warming," Drey says. "We all have to participate. That's all there is to it."


Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Russian Scientist Says Earth Could Soon Face New Ice Age: Countries Must Secure Diverse Energy Sources to Meet Greater Energy Needs

Russian scientist says Earth could soon face new Ice Age


(RIA Novosti) Russian News & Information Agency

January 22, 2008

Temperatures on Earth have stabilized in the past decade, and the planet should brace itself for a new Ice Age rather than global warming, a Russian scientist said in an interview with RIA Novosti Tuesday.

"Russian and foreign research data confirm that global temperatures in 2007 were practically similar to those in 2006, and, in general, identical to 1998-2006 temperatures, which, basically, means that the Earth passed the peak of global warming in 1998-2005," said Khabibullo Abdusamatov, head of a space research lab at the Pulkovo observatory in St. Petersburg.

According to the scientist, the concentration of carbon dioxide in the Earth's atmosphere has risen more than 4% in the past decade, but global warming has practically stopped. It confirms the theory of "solar" impact on changes in the Earth's climate, because the amount of solar energy reaching the planet has drastically decreased during the same period, the scientist said.
Had global temperatures directly responded to concentrations of "greenhouse" gases in the atmosphere, they would have risen by at least 0.1 Celsius in the past ten years, however, it never happened, he said.

"A year ago, many meteorologists predicted that higher levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere would make the year 2007 the hottest in the last decade, but, fortunately, these predictions did not become reality," Abdusamatov said.

He also said that in 2008, global temperatures would drop slightly, rather than rise, due to unprecedentedly low solar radiation in the past 30 years, and would continue decreasing even if industrial emissions of carbon dioxide reach record levels.

By 2041, solar activity will reach its minimum according to a 200-year cycle, and a deep cooling period will hit the Earth approximately in 2055-2060. It will last for about 45-65 years, the scientist added.

"By the mid-21st century the planet will face another Little Ice Age, similar to the Maunder Minimum, because the amount of solar radiation hitting the Earth has been constantly decreasing since the 1990s and will reach its minimum approximately in 2041," he said.

The Maunder Minimum occurred between 1645 and 1715, when only about 50 spots appeared on the Sun, as opposed to the typical 40,000-50,000 spots.

It coincided with the middle and coldest part of the so called Little Ice Age, during which Europe and North America were subjected to bitterly cold winters.

"However, the thermal inertia of the world's oceans and seas will delay a 'deep cooling' of the planet, and the new Ice Age will begin sometime during 2055-2060, probably lasting for several decades," Abdusamatov said.

Therefore, the Earth must brace itself for a growing ice cap, rather than rising waters in global oceans caused by ice melting.

Mankind will face serious economic, social, and demographic consequences of the coming Ice Age because it will directly affect more than 80% of the earth's population, the scientist concluded.

Saturday, February 2, 2008

New York Times: In 2008, a 100 Percent Chance of Alarm


Published: January 1, 2008

New York Times

I’d like to wish you a happy New Year, but I’m afraid I have a different sort of prediction.
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How will the world react to climate change in 2008?

Join the discussion. Go to TierneyLab »
Further Reading:

"Availability Cascades and Risk Regulation." Timur Kuran and Cass Sunstein. Stanford Law Review, 1999 "Availability Cascades and Risk Regulation Media Coverage and Climate Change." Prometheus blog, Roger Pielke, Jr.
"Media Mania for a 'Front-Page Thought' on Climate." Dot Earth blog, Andrew C. Revkin.
"2007 Tropical Cyclone Season Summary." Ryan N. Maue, Center for Ocean-Atmospheric Prediction Studies.
"Effect of Remote Sea Surface Temperature Change on Tropical Cyclone Potential Intensity." G.A. Vecchi , B.J. Soden. Nature, Dec. 3, 2007.
"Heightened Tropical Cyclone Activity in the North Atlantic." G.J. Holland, P.J. Webster. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society, Nov. 15, 2007.
"Arctic Melt Unnerves the Experts." Andrew C. Revkin. New York Times, Oct. 2, 2007.
"NASA Sees Arctic Ocean Circulation Do an About-Face."
"NASA Examines Arctic Sea Ice Changes Leading to Record Low in 2007."
"2007 to Be 'Warmest on Record.'" BBC News.
"2007 Data Confirms Warming Trend." BBC News.

You’re in for very bad weather. In 2008, your television will bring you image after frightening image of natural havoc linked to global warming. You will be told that such bizarre weather must be a sign of dangerous climate change — and that these images are a mere preview of what’s in store unless we act quickly to cool the planet.

Unfortunately, I can’t be more specific. I don’t know if disaster will come by flood or drought, hurricane or blizzard, fire or ice. Nor do I have any idea how much the planet will warm this year or what that means for your local forecast. Long-term climate models cannot explain short-term weather.

But there’s bound to be some weird weather somewhere, and we will react like the sailors in the Book of Jonah. When a storm hit their ship, they didn’t ascribe it to a seasonal weather pattern. They quickly identified the cause (Jonah’s sinfulness) and agreed to an appropriate policy response (throw Jonah overboard).

Today’s interpreters of the weather are what social scientists call availability entrepreneurs: the activists, journalists and publicity-savvy scientists who selectively monitor the globe looking for newsworthy evidence of a new form of sinfulness, burning fossil fuels.

A year ago, British meteorologists made headlines predicting that the buildup of greenhouse gases would help make 2007 the hottest year on record. At year’s end, even though the British scientists reported the global temperature average was not a new record — it was actually lower than any year since 2001 — the BBC confidently proclaimed, “2007 Data Confirms Warming Trend.”

When the Arctic sea ice last year hit the lowest level ever recorded by satellites, it was big news and heralded as a sign that the whole planet was warming. When the Antarctic sea ice last year reached the highest level ever recorded by satellites, it was pretty much ignored. A large part of Antarctica has been cooling recently, but most coverage of that continent has focused on one small part that has warmed.

When Hurricane Katrina flooded New Orleans in 2005, it was supposed to be a harbinger of the stormier world predicted by some climate modelers. When the next two hurricane seasons were fairly calm — by some measures, last season in the Northern Hemisphere was the calmest in three decades — the availability entrepreneurs changed the subject. Droughts in California and Australia became the new harbingers of climate change (never mind that a warmer planet is projected to have more, not less, precipitation over all).

The most charitable excuse for this bias in weather divination is that the entrepreneurs are trying to offset another bias. The planet has indeed gotten warmer, and it is projected to keep warming because of greenhouse emissions, but this process is too slow to make much impact on the public.

When judging risks, we often go wrong by using what’s called the availability heuristic: we gauge a danger according to how many examples of it are readily available in our minds. Thus we overestimate the odds of dying in a terrorist attack or a plane crash because we’ve seen such dramatic deaths so often on television; we underestimate the risks of dying from a stroke because we don’t have so many vivid images readily available.

Slow warming doesn’t make for memorable images on television or in people’s minds, so activists, journalists and scientists have looked to hurricanes, wild fires and starving polar bears instead. They have used these images to start an “availability cascade,” a term coined by Timur Kuran, professor of economics and political science at Duke University, and Cass R. Sunstein, a law professor at the University of Chicago.

The availability cascade is a self-perpetuating process: the more attention a danger gets, the more worried people become, leading to more news coverage and more fear. Once the images of Sept. 11 made terrorism seem a major threat, the press and the police lavished attention on potential new attacks and supposed plots. After Three Mile Island and “The China Syndrome,” minor malfunctions at nuclear power plants suddenly became newsworthy.

“Many people concerned about climate change,” Dr. Sunstein says, “want to create an availability cascade by fixing an incident in people’s minds. Hurricane Katrina is just an early example; there will be others. I don’t doubt that climate change is real and that it presents a serious threat, but there’s a danger that any ‘consensus’ on particular events or specific findings is, in part, a cascade.”

Once a cascade is under way, it becomes tough to sort out risks because experts become reluctant to dispute the popular wisdom, and are ignored if they do. Now that the melting Arctic has become the symbol of global warming, there’s not much interest in hearing other explanations of why the ice is melting — or why the globe’s other pole isn’t melting, too.

Global warming has an impact on both polar regions, but they’re also strongly influenced by regional weather patterns and ocean currents. Two studies by NASA and university scientists last year concluded that much of the recent melting of Arctic sea ice was related to a cyclical change in ocean currents and winds, but those studies got relatively little attention — and were certainly no match for the images of struggling polar bears so popular with availability entrepreneurs.

Roger A. Pielke Jr., a professor of environmental studies at the University of Colorado, recently noted the very different reception received last year by two conflicting papers on the link between hurricanes and global warming. He counted 79 news articles about a paper in the Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society, and only 3 news articles about one in a far more prestigious journal, Nature.

Guess which paper jibed with the theory — and image of Katrina — presented by Al Gore’s “Inconvenient Truth”?

It was, of course, the paper in the more obscure journal, which suggested that global warming is creating more hurricanes. The paper in Nature concluded that global warming has a minimal effect on hurricanes. It was published in December — by coincidence, the same week that Mr. Gore received his Nobel Peace Prize.

In his acceptance speech, Mr. Gore didn’t dwell on the complexities of the hurricane debate. Nor, in his roundup of the 2007 weather, did he mention how calm the hurricane season had been. Instead, he alluded somewhat mysteriously to “stronger storms in the Atlantic and Pacific,” and focused on other kinds of disasters, like “massive droughts” and “massive flooding.”

“In the last few months,” Mr. Gore said, “it has been harder and harder to misinterpret the signs that our world is spinning out of kilter.” But he was being too modest. Thanks to availability entrepreneurs like him, misinterpreting the weather is getting easier and easier.

Bill Clinton, Climate and the ‘Instanet’

By Andrew C. Revkin

February 1, 2008

Much of the power of the Web lies in speed and reach. But those same properties are the source of its greatest failing as well: the tendency to spread faulty assertions instantly and widely. Maybe it’s time for a “slow blog” movement, just as there’s now a slow food movement — and even a slow life movement, as described in The Times this week.

I’ve written about a couple of recent examples of this kind of fast-motion flow of misinformation (and often disinformation), including the release of a startling paper debunking global warming that was entirely fake and designed to fool right-wing bloggers and radio hosts.

Another incident of this sort flared yesterday, involving former President Bill Clinton. It started when the Drudge Report posted a link to an item on the Political Punch blog by the ABC News correspondent Jake Tapper quoting Mr. Clinton proposing that “we have to slow down our economy” to save the planet from global warming. (For a longer sit-down interview I had with Mr. Clinton on energy and climate, click on the video to the left).

The provocative line in the ABC blog post was this: “In a long, and interesting speech, he characterized what the U.S. and other industrialized nations need to do to combat global warming this way: ‘We just have to slow down our economy and cut back our greenhouse gas emissions ’cause we have to save the planet for our grandchildren.’ ”

The post included a video snippet of that line, as well.

Further down in the post, Mr. Tapper included the full text and a link to the entire speech. The context makes it clear that Mr. Clinton was not recommending a slowdown to limit warming, and instead was saying that an economic slowdown and emissions cuts in the United States and other industrialized countries would have no effect because emerging economic powerhouses like China would not follow suit. But the blogosphere, for the most part, doesn’t seem to have time for full transcripts — only the portion that suits some preexisting stance.

For the record, here’s the full statement:

“And maybe America, and Europe, and Japan, and Canada — the rich countries — would say, ‘O.K., we just have to slow down our economy and cut back our greenhouse gas emissions ’cause we have to save the planet for our grandchildren.’ We could do that. But if we did that, you know as well as I do, China and India and Indonesia and Vietnam and Mexico and Brazil and the Ukraine, and all the other countries will never agree to stay poor to save the planet for our grandchildren. The only way we can do this is if we get back in the world’s fight against global warming and prove it is good economics that we will create more jobs to build a sustainable economy that saves the planet for our children and grandchildren. It is the only way it will work.”

After the Drudge link, there was a near-instant barrage of attacks on Mr. Clinton (and in some cases his candidate spouse) from the libertarian Cato Institute, the Republican National Committee and other groups.

Almost as quickly, some longtime critics of the Clintons and global warming science noticed that Mr. Tapper’s post included the full text of the climate portion of Mr. Clinton’s speech, which clearly showed the offending line had been taken out of context. Iain Murray of the Competitive Enterprise Institute, writing on the National Review’s blog The Corner, said: “…That video is actually (and again, I can’t believe I’m saying this) really unfair to Bill Clinton.”

But, of course, the echo chamber was already reverberating. You may have noticed several Dot Earth visitors who reject the idea that humans are warming the planet posted links to the initial barrage of criticisms of Mr. Clinton.

Other Web sites, including the Carpetbagger Report and Media Matters, have fully de-constructed the incident (and sharply criticized Mr. Tapper).

For his part, Mr. Tapper posted a series of updates through Thursday clarifying his intent, saying he found Mr. Clinton’s speech confusing and was posing questions more than offering criticisms. And his main point, he told me over the phone late last night, was to examine whether Mr. Clinton was portraying efforts to curb greenhouse-gas emissions as something that would blunt the economy. This is a point that other proponents of gas curbs have sometimes downplayed.

“I didn’t think I was accusing him of anything other than candor,” Mr. Tapper said.

Does anyone out there want to start a “slow blog” movement?

Mr. Clinton, Please Explain: US Must Adopt Europe's Economically Harmful Malthusian Negative Sustainable Development Climate-Energy Policies??

Bill Clinton Says Economic Slowdown Could Be Necessary To Fight Global Warming

January 31, 2008 1:42 p.m. EST

Julie Farby - AHN Reporter

Denver, CO (AHN)-Speaking in Denver on Wednesday, former President Bill Clinton did not mince words on how to combat global warming, telling the crowd that the fight against climate change required industrialized nations to "slow down their economies and cut back on greenhouse gas emissions."

Bill Clinton, who was traveling from state to state to campaign on behalf of his wife's presidential bid, spoke to the Colorado crowd about the importance of a good energy plan not only to curb greenhouse gas emission and global warming, but also to stimulate job growth as well.
Although Clinton said that an active environmental plan may require an initial slowdown of the economy, the former President assured the audience his wife was the best candidate for the White House, with a viable, sustainable energy plan to "help save the planet for our grandchildren."

Speaking on behalf of his wife's energy proposals, Bill Clinton told the crowd, "If you want a clean, efficient, green, independent energy future in America...if you want the millions of jobs that will come from it, if you would like to see a new energy trust fund to finance solar energy and wind energy and biomass and responsible bio-fuels and electric hybrid plug-in vehicles...and to create millions and millions and millions of jobs, vote for her. She'll give it to you. She's got the right energy plan."