Monday, July 06, 2009

Not the Brightest Bulb in the Chandelier

The NY Times notes the comeback of the incandescent bulb. Condemned to the outer darkness by He of the Inconvenient Electric Bill, the feds had set to ban cheap, pleasant lighting that people liked, and substitute crummy institutional lighting that doesn't last as long as advertised, is environmentally hazardous, and frightfully expensive.

The Times, however, does err in describing this as government driven innovation. In one sense, it's true, by changing the rules, the government forced businesses into investing money into non-economic product development in order to survive. In a larger sense, replacing a $0.25 purchase with a $5 dollar purchase isn't a worthwhile tradeoff. Even if the $5 purchase lasts 3 times as long. In order for that logic to work (assuming that you actually get 3x the lifespan of an incandescent (personal experience marks this as doubtful outside of the lab)), you're still left with trying to recover $4.25, requiring an efficiency improvement on the order of 567% or so. Good luck with that. Under government driven innovation, you merely wind up less poor than if no regulation had occurred.

At the end of the day, you're left with crappy, more expensive lighting, no real benefit to the planet, and only the legion of His Goreness' bureaucrats will be happy.