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[GreenYes] More on CFL, Hg thread

I forwarded this discussion to colleagues at Ecos Consulting -
environmental/energy experts with a strong niche in lighting, especially
residential. Good stuff to share with Greenyes:

Chris Calwell wrote:
I'm headed to Paris later this week to speak on this topic at the
International Energy Agency - Vicki's been following the CFL disposal
issue, so I'll encourage her to get back to you. I personally think a
tax on the sale of incandescent light bulbs would be a fine idea - use
the bads to pay for the goods as we say...

Vicki Fulbright Calwell then added:

I continue to be amazed that a product category that represents less
than 0.01% from anthropogenic mercury emissions gets so much attention.

Regarding Doug's first comment about HHW not being convenient. CFLs last
an average of five years, so it's hard to argue that they are a constant
hassle. EPA recommends keeping a box in your garage/basement and taking
when other items build up (e.g., paint, pesticides, etc.).

The air conditioning example is comparing apples to oranges. Of the
energy that goes into an incandescent lamp, only 10% comes out as
visible light. So it's actually responsible for MORE mercury emissions
than a CFL (keep in mind that the single largest source of mercury
emissions in the US/world are coal-fired power plants). I wrote a
column a few weeks ago for a northwest publication -- it provides a
high-level overview of this particular conundrum. You can view it at:

Incandescents are cheaply priced, which makes it attractive to
consumers, so I'm not opposed to a tax on incandescents. It's much
better than taxing consumers who choose the more efficient lighting
options (either through advanced recovery fees or end-of-life fees).
Also, setting efficiency standards (or outright bans) on energy-guzzling
products has had great success. Refrigerators are the great energy
efficiency story. I'll throw that one back into Chris' court to tell. I
do agree that an outright ban is not feasible (there just aren't enough
substitutes for all applications), but minimum efficiency standards and
phase-outs are approaches that should be considered. The need to
seriously address global climate change is urgent, and we need to act now.

LEDs show great promise -- more because of their energy efficiency
properties -- but they are nowhere near market ready to replace general
service incandescent lamps or the CFL. We'll check back in on that one
in about another 5 years. Additionally, they may be mercury free, but
they are not toxin free.

The issue will remain contentious and dynamic for time to come. But we
know one thing for certain: an artificial light source without
environmental consequence does not yet exist, so impacts must be
assessed comprehensively and not by mercury alone. CFLs prevent the
emissions of substantial quantities of mercury, greenhouse gases and
other pollutants, they reduce consumer energy bills, and they last far
longer than incandescent alternatives. They are currently the
environmentally preferable product despite their mercury content (and
regardless if they are recycled or not).

Also important to note, the average Hg content per lamp is steadily
dropping, with a significant push underway to reduce to best practice
levels: 1.7 - 2.3 milligrams. NEMA manufacturers are also voluntarily
adopting a 5 mg limit (6 mg in higher wattages). This means the average
will likely drop from 5 mg to ~3mg. This is the equivalent to achieving
a 40% recycling rate without the exorbitant costs associated with
recycling. (It takes an average of $45,000 to collect just one pound of

I'll be traveling the next three weeks, but let me know if other
questions pop up.


Anne Peters
Gracestone, Inc.
303.494.4934 vox
303.494.4880 fax

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