Paul Murray's weblog, with news you may have missed and my $0.02 worth on a number of topics.
"You can't make up anything anymore. The world itself is a satire. All you're doing is recording it."
I bet you don't have a friend who's an acupuncturist
E-mail me: pmurray63 [at] hotmail.com (Be patient, I don't check it often.)
Friday, February 08, 2008
The scare story about CFLs. For reasons even I don't entirely understand, I seem to write a lot (1, 2, 3) about compact fluorescent lamps (CFLs). I think it's the many benefits that can result from such a simple act as changing light bulbs. It's one thing to try and persuade people that they should somehow sacrifice to reduce energy consumption -- good luck telling Americans that -- but CFLs end up saving users money, too. Everybody wins, pretty much.
Probably the biggest qualification behind that "pretty much" is the issue of CFL disposal. CFLs contain mercury. Throw one into a landfill and it's not a big deal, but when everyone starts using them and throwing them away, it becomes a serious problem.
Some people argue that the mercury is such a serious problem that rushing to CFLs is a big mistake. Earlier this week, Slate's Brendan I. Koerner looked at the CFL mercury issue and punched a hole in that argument with an interesting point:
The irony of CFLs is that they actually reduce overall mercury emissions in the long run. Despite recent improvements in the industry's technology, the burning of coal to produce electricity emits roughly 0.023 milligrams of mercury per kilowatt-hour. Over a year, then, using a 26-watt CFL in the average American home (where half of the electricity comes from coal) will result in the emission of 0.66 milligrams of mercury. For 100-watt incandescent bulbs, which produce the identical amount of light, the figure is 2.52 milligrams.
The math is less compelling in areas where significant amounts of power come from sources other than coal (hydroelectric, nuclear, etc.). And yes, we need to make it much easier to recycle CFLs. But avoiding their use due to mercury concerns doesn't make sense.