January 14, 2011 9:04AM

Preparing for Life as a Light Bulb Black Marketeer

I’ve decided the time has come to become an entrepreneur — as a black market operator.

Come next January, 100‐​watt incandescent light bulbs will be illegal, courtesy of Congress and President George W. Bush. Lower wattages will be banned the following year. As usual, politicians in Washington believe they know best and are determined to inconvenience the public in the name of saving energy.

No matter that incandescent lights offer a softer light and are a better value than fluorescent bulbs if turned on only briefly. And no matter that breaking a fluorescent light will spill mercury, creating what in any other circumstance would be considered to be a biohazard.

There are other consequences of the coming prohibition. Notes Tim Carney of the Washington Examiner:

  • Citing this law, GE has closed its incandescent light plant in Virginia. For the coming years, while they’re still legal, Americans will be buying their GE incandescents from Mexico. This probably means less efficient manufacturing and more shipping.
  • GE makes its CFLs in China. The factories are likely dirtier and less efficient, and certainly there will be more shipping costs.
  • Because of the warm‐​up time for CFLs and the knowledge that they use less energy, people are more likely to leave them on for longer, I imagine.
  • In northern latitudes, incandescents’ inefficiency is not wasted. Think about it: in Alaska, summer nights are very short and winter nights are very long. That means a vast majority of light‐​bulb time happens in the winter. The incandescents waste energy in the form of heat, but if it’s cold, that added heat slightly reduces your need to use a furnace.

Of course, it’s hard to decide how many bulbs to buy. What would be a lifetime supply of 100 watt lights?

And why stop there? I could become an incandescent bulb pusher once the prohibition takes effect. I don’t think drug prohibition makes any sense, but I have no desire to get into that market. Customers and competitors are an ugly lot and I really don’t want to go to prison. But selling light bulbs — now there’s something I could do!

I’d be even happier, however, if the new Congress dropped the coming prohibition. Fluorescent bulbs often are a wise choice, but not always. A supposedly free society should leave at least a few choices to people — like deciding which light bulbs to use.