December 8, 2008

How many hundreds of billions of dollars does it take to screw in a lightbulb?

Today, I am announcing a few key parts of my plan. First, we will launch a massive effort to make public buildings more energy-efficient. Our government now pays the highest energy bill in the world. We need to change that. We need to upgrade our federal buildings by replacing old heating systems and installing efficient light bulbs. That won’t just save you, the American taxpayer, billions of dollars each year. It will put people back to work.

Barack Obama
Youtube address, 12/7/08

Help me out here. I'm a little lost on how having the federal government change all the lightbulbs in government buildings is going to massively stimulate the economy.

Don't government agencies pay people to routinely change lightbulbs anyway? And don't incandescent bulbs notoriously burn out in a year or so? And aren't we constantly told by the Great and the Good that Compact Fluorescent Lightbulbs (CGwill save us money (that was the justification given when Congress recently outlawed incandescent bulbs as of 2012). So, wouldn't government agencies have changed anyway?

By the way, my impression of government offices is that they have been lit, overwhelmingly, by fluorescent light rather than incandescent light for many decades -- cold, clammy-looking fluorescents have been considered good enough for government work lighting for my entire life.

Or is there some problem that was keeping the government from changing as a matter of course ... like they don't always fit in fixtures, and (perhaps less so in the last couple of years than earlier in the decade) they sometimes seem to burn out in very short periods, and that they are ugly and cast ugly light?

I think Obama should pledge to have all of his personal television and video appearances lit solely by Compact Fluorescent Lightbulbs. And he should get all the Democratic movie stars in Hollywood to pledge that their next movies will be lit only by CFLs.

My published articles are archived at -- Steve Sailer


Anonymous said...

I would have to say seven. Yep, $700 billion should do it.

Anonymous said...

"That won’t just save you, the American taxpayer, billions of dollars each year. "
"It will put people back to work."

First point is a lie. High-tech light bulbs cots a lot more than the old ones, and don't last so long. So in the end it’s a toss up if you disregard the energy issue. But remember they have electronics and nasty gases too.

As for new heating systems: Germany forced those through with stricter emission requirements for the oil/gas burners and insulation for buildings. Also subsidies for solar and wind installations. Sounds great but most calculations show you never recover the investments. That's because most of these installations are outdated and worn in about 10 years and you need at least 30-40 years of saved heating costs to recover the money. So in the end everything just gets much more expensive.

Point 2 is true: There will be more bulb-turners. Anyway, now we know what he meant when he talked about boosting green industries.

Anonymous said...

politics as empty symbolic gestures is back

we missed ya, bill clinton

Anonymous said...

I work for the government and have been inside many, many government buildings.

Yes, I'm bathed in Fluorescent.

Anonymous said...

Lord Almighty, the SWPL will go down as the most foolish subset of humans ever. Of course, the Mauing Mauing subset will eventually cease to exist once they have terminated their host.

The only question is will anything be left.

Anonymous said...

In the end I suppose Barack will just load up some B 52s with cash and dump it all over the country.

Anonymous said...

Somebody really ought to point out to these people that fluorescent light bulbs are obsolete now. LED lighting saves even more electricity, doesn't involve mercury, and the bulbs lights last even longer. I stopped buying fluorescent lights; when they burn out, I replace them with LEDs.

Anonymous said...

>>Our government now pays the highest energy bill in the world.

Am I supposed to be outraged by this? Of course, the US government has the highest energy bill -- I'm gonna guess that it's also the world's largest government.

Large organization, high energy bill -- these things tend to go hand in hand.

Anonymous said...

The Democratic penchant for symbolic and ineffective measure is actually what makes them better than the Republicans, for now.

In fact, the more ineffective and symbolic the better.

These initiatives will make the people feel better and won't cost that much money. How much can you spend on midnight basketball?

Contrast this with the Republicans whose initiative cost hundreds of billions of dollars, get Americans killed and which hurt our overseas prestige.

At this point, I will take the witch-doctor blowing smoke on the wound to the medieval surgeon who will initiate a blood letting.

Anonymous said...

CFL's are much better now than in the past in the light they produce. I don't notice much of a difference in my house.

Maybe Obama is talking about LED lighting. An LED replacement for a 60-watt bumb, however, costs something like $100 last time I looked. However the price is falling rapidly, and big government purchases will help this.

Further, LED's use close to no energy and last more than 50 years. Install enough of them and we can fire all the government light-bulb changers.

albertosaurus said...

There are probably very few incandescents in government office buildings anywhere. The big switch from incandescents to flourescents happened about fifty years ago. I can't remember ever seeing a government office lit by incandescent light bulbs.

Today Americans spent their hours at the office working under flourescent lights and their hours at home under incandescents. Its been this way for decades.

On balance most of us spend more time under flourescents. Our kitchens are likely to have flourescents. Our dining rooms usually have incandescents.

Flourescents took over in the workplace because of lower operating costs, That is to say market forces. Improvements in the light spectrum (or rather the simulation of a spectrum) have contributed to increasing adoption of flourescents at home. Again its been simple market forces.

Flourescents themselves are beginning to be replaced by LEDs. Video camera lights were once incandescents, then they were flourescents, and the newest are now LED based. All of this is normal technological change. A product is adopted as it improves and gets cheaper.

Then somehow light bulbs became a political-religious issue. Suddenly an incandescent lightbulb was evil and its owner at best ignorant and insensitive.

American government has high energy usage because there is so much government and so much air conditioning.

In general government office building have been built to higher standards than have been comparable private sector buildings. The government has been guilty of over building not under building. Lately however the quality gap has narrowed as government offices are increasingly housed in rented office space.

neil craig said...

The low energy bulbs beloved by the eco-fascists contain mercury. You aren't supposed to bin them when they rail you are supposed to .....oh dear it seems the powers that be haven't got round to sending out a leaflet saying how to face that environmental problem.

Anonymous said...

What really pisses me off about all this green rubbish the EU (now that they have completed legislating the curvature of the banana) and now Obama are legislating is that it will not reduce our dependency on those rotten sheiks, but just make everything incredibly expensive. So we will still be invaded by hordes of Muslims paid for by the Saudi royals, and on top have creepy lighting, underperforming cars and all sorts of restrictions in transport, lighting, heating and toilet paper. Just what you could expect from over-educated self-aggrandizing liberals.

Anonymous said...

good lord. The stupidity of forming a government task force to replace lightbulbs aside, those CFLs are STILL ugly.

I've got bunches of them in the house (husband is adorably gullible when it comes to saving-money-by-buying-new-stuff) and I still hate that cold miserable light they emit.

We use CFLs in the overhead fixtures and incandescents in the lamps, by way of compromise.

Anonymous said...

The Idiocracy is fast emerging. Do not resist the Change.

What does this post remind me of? Oh yeah, South Africa, once a modern state, is now having trouble keeping the lights on.

Anonymous said...

"What does this post remind me of? Oh yeah, South Africa, once a modern state, is now having trouble keeping the lights on."

Funny how that infrastructure signal coincided with the crime wave.

Anonymous said...

>>Our government now pays the highest energy bill in the world.<<

Don't forget US Army...

Democracy building requires a lot of patience consumption...that will grow exponentially once you decide to repeat this fancy experiment in some obscure and distant land ..

Anonymous said...

I saw Obama's interview with Brokaw on Sunday. When asked to identify the root of the auto industry's problems, he cited their unwillingness to switch to electric/hybrid/etc. cars. Yeah, THAT's what Detroit's problems are all about.

I think that Half Sigma and others have seriously overestimated Barry O's IQ. When he's asked new-to-him questions, he has a tendency to simply rearrange familiar-to-him buzzwords into answer-like patterns. I've seen this before as well. The results look ridiculous.

Auto industry in trouble, they're not making that many SWPL-friendly cars - bingo!

But one of those things didn't necessarily cause the other. Even a smart SWPLer probably wouldn't have made a causative link here. If McDonald's filed for bankruptcy tomorrow, would that be because they're not serving enough arugula/goat cheese/truffles/whatever? No, it wouldn't be. If anything, the SWPL demographic is shrinking (not enough kids) and the McDonald's demographic is growing. Long-term, catering to SWPLer tastes is not going to become a winning game.

My point is that you can't just grab your biggest pet peeve about X and fit it into an answer about why X isn't doing so well lately. Well, apparently you can if the media is in love with you.

Anonymous said...

Seriously, you guys need to get laid or something; all this frustration is unhealthy; use your aggression against your legions of zits that keep you from wandering outside.

Anonymous said...

"Seriously, you guys need to get laid or something"

I'd love to get laid and have kids.

But inflation as the consequence of profligate gov't spending on goofy, unproductive and corruption prone make-work programs forces me to work to pay my husband's heavy inflation-tax, so I can't.

My acne is clearing up, thanks. Got any other helpful suggestions?

Anonymous said...

Anon sed:
"Yeah, THAT's what Detroit's problems are all about.

I think that Half Sigma and others have seriously overestimated Barry O's IQ. "
US media fawn all over European carmakers and Toyota. But the reason these make small and low consumption/hybrid cars is not SWPL hype, rather less oil lying around. You just don't drill a hole in Bavaria and get oil oozing out. Gas is very expensive here in Europe, with imports and gov. taxes and all the Green nonsense and all. Shortages generate creativity. On top Japanese and European cities are cramped. The other day I walked past a US-style pickup here in Germany. The thing almost covered the street! I thought it was a truck. No wonder you use so much gas!

European are not trendier, they just have few natural resources and live cramped lives and have to compensate. That's why their cars are more "progressive". Not because their automakers listened to SWPL pols. Sitting in a trendy European car sucks. It’s cramped and usually you feel all the bumps. US cars are much more comfortable, especially if you’re fat like most Americans. Automakers will never base their technological considerations on what pols say. Only on how the money flows. Nobody is going to build electrical cars if there is not a huge market for them down the road. Anticipating Peak Oil and all that, now is the time automakers are climbing into this new/old idea.

Anonymous said...

"I think that Half Sigma and others have seriously overestimated Barry O's IQ."

Obama graduated magna cum laude from Havard Law school, proving the ability to beat the best of the best at academic tasks.

People with high IQs have the ability to think logically, but often have no DESIRE to think logically. It feels better to believe in the new religion of Gaia worship.

I find it equally weird that Mitt Romney, who also has a very high IQ, buys into that Joseph Smith stuff.