The Light Bulb Ban and Doublethink

Quick, which one of these statements does NOT come from George Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four?

WAR IS PEACE

FREEDOM IS SLAVERY

IGNORANCE IS STRENGTH

INCANDESCENT BULBS AREN’T GETTING BANNED…IN FACT, THEY ARE GETTING BETTER.

Tough choice?  OK—take a few more seconds.

Time’s up.  The answer is number 4—it’s from a new mass email from ACEEE (the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy—see below), urging readers to oppose a bill in Congress that would rescind the upcoming federal ban on conventional incandescent bulbs.  Under that ban, the production of regular 100-watt incandescents will become illegal on Jan. 1, 2012, followed by 75-watts bulbs in 2013 and 60- and 40-watt bulbs a year later.

ACEEE and other supporters of the law claim that consumers will supposedly benefit from all the new lighting technologies being spurred into development.  I’ve never understood this line of argument.  If these new lights (such as compact fluorescents, LEDs, high-efficiency halogens) are so great, then why do we need a federal law forcing us to buy them?

In fact, lots of people have lots of good reasons for not buying them—they hate the quality of fluorescent light, they hate the high purchase costs, they distrust the claims that the bulbs will last very long, they don’t want to follow EPA’s 4-step guidelines for dealing with broken compact fluorescents, etc.  And for those who do like these bulbs, they’re available in just about every supermarket, drugstore, and hardware shop in the country.

In terms of the material that’s come out favoring the incandescent ban, ACEEE’s email isn’t very unusual, though you’ve got to smile at its pointing to the support of the lighting industry.  Yes, big corporations support the law, since it wipes out competition from low-priced bulb manufacturers.  (Hmm—does this mean that ACEEE is in the pocket of Big Bulb?)

But what is unusual is ACEEE’s Orwellian corruption of language—its claim that the law doesn’t ban incandescents but rather makes them “better”. The law, the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007 (EISA 2007), isn’t a soft exhortation for industry self-improvement; it depends on stiff civil penalties for noncompliance, and the Department of Energy has, in its own words, “ramped up” its enforcement of these penalties.  Last December DOE boasted about how it had socked Westinghouse with a $50,000 fine for failing to comply with the light bulb standards.

ACEEE, perhaps, would argue that Westinghouse wasn’t fined; rather, it was “enhanced”.

Doublethink has been defined as “the manipulation of language so that expressions hold two contradictory ideas at once”.  ACEEE, which has long claimed to “protect” consumers by limiting their choice, is turning this manipulation into a fine art.  In line with its claim that incandescents are getter better rather than getting banned, perhaps we’ll soon see such other rhetorical gems as:

“You’re not being jailed; you’re being improved”; or

“You’re not being taxed; you’re being enriched.”

If you’ve got more suggestions in this vein, please email them to us.  We’d love to see them.

ACEEE’s email is available online here, and it is reprinted below.

Next week, the House of Representatives is expected to vote on the “BULB Act” (H.R. 91), which would repeal the energy efficiency standards for light bulbs that Congress enacted in 2007, standards that are already helping American households save money every month on their energy bills. Let your Representative know that you oppose the repeal of this energy- and money-saving legislation.

Tell your Representative to oppose the BULB Act or other bills that repeal light bulb energy efficiency standards!

More Options, Better Bulbs, Less Energy Used

Proponents of the BULB Act claim the standards they want to repeal amount to a light bulb “ban” that limits consumers’ choices.  That couldn’t be further from the truth.

The Facts:

Incandescent bulbs aren’t getting banned… in fact, they are getting better. Manufacturers are already making a variety of new energy-saving bulbs for homes, including more efficient incandescent bulbs.

The new incandescent bulbs look, light, and turn on exactly like the bulbs we have been using for decades, but are 28 to 33 percent more energy efficient and are available in stores now.

Consumers aren’t required to “retire” bulbs or to purchase only CFL or LED light bulbs —- consumers can use existing bulbs until they burn out and when a bulb burns out consumers can choose between efficient incandescent lamps or even more efficient CFL or LED light bulb options.

The lighting industry supports this standard, along with efficiency, consumer, and environmental advocates.

Energy-efficient lighting saves consumers money, creates jobs, and benefits the environment. At a time when families are struggling with high energy costs, efficient lighting will save the average American family $50-100 every year on the electric bill (about $12 billion nationwide), and save enough energy annually to power all the homes in Pennsylvania and Tennessee.

Phasing-in energy-efficient light bulbs means more choices and more ways to save on energy. We urge you to write your Representative and let him/her know you strongly oppose repeal of the light bulb efficiency standards.

Tell your Representative to oppose the BULB Act and similar bills!

Thank you for your support!

Sincerely,

ACEEE

via The Light Bulb Ban and Doublethink: Hats off to the American Council for Energy-Efficient Euphemisms.

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Categories: double-think, physical control

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