Friday, August 1, 2008

CFL - Inferior version of US Football, or "Bright" Idea?

I wish understanding the environment were easier. Apparently, so does Stephen Colbert, who interviewed one of Slate's the "Green Lantern" writers, Brendan Koerner, and discussed Compact Fluorescent Lightbulbs (CFL).



Anyway, the main issue with CFLs is alleged to be mercury. It's true that CFLs use less energy, and compensate for their higher cost over their lifetime in savings on energy bills. The question was whether this cost was worth it given concerns over the fact that the bulb itself contains a small amount of mercury (less than 1/100 of the mercury in a mercury thermometer).

This report, outlines some of the mercury issues. Basically, on average much more mercury is emitted as vapor from the coal-burning electrical plants that supply extra energy needed for incandescent bulbs than the combined mercury in a CFL plus their emissions. The report, however reveals a small concern: some of the mercury from a CFL is sent to the place it goes after it is burnt out. If you have access to a place that can recycle the bulb, do that. If you don't, I worry about the nature of liquid mercury piling up in landfills if everyone switches over to CFBs. Vapor emissions are less of a big deal because they become a bit more diffuse in the atmosphere, although they eventually find their way into water sources. Liquid mercury doesn't become diffuse: That's why Bush's bright idea to auction mercury pollutants like we had begun to do with SO2 and other atmosphereic pollutions was quickly shot down.

I'm trying not to advocate a position on this. However, I would like a bit more careful thought and study to be done, preferably by someone who is not me.

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