Monthly Archives: March 2010

How many government officials does it take to replace ALL your light bulbs?

Light bulb jokes have been popular for many years as a way to poke fun of stereotypes.  I remember several old ones about how many Republicans it takes to change a light bulb, especially popular during the early Reagan years.  It took one to screw in the bulb, one to steady the chandelier, one to claim the bulb wasn’t truly needed, and one to reminisce about the old bulb.  When I went into state government, there was a joke about how many bureaucrats it takes to change a light bulb, and the answer was, “Who said anything about change?”

But this newest joke is no joke at all.  Every single American will have to change ALL the light bulbs in their homes because by 2014 the incandescent bulbs we use today will no longer be sold.  The breakthrough invention of Thomas Edison that brought civilization out of the whale oil age – the light bulb that itself became our iconic image to illustrate a good idea – has been banned by federal law.

Question: How many government officials does it take to change ALL the bulbs? Answer: 37,221. Here is the breakdown:

  • 1 former Vice President to jet around the world convincing everyone that our use of light bulbs was helping destroy the planet;
  • 30 of Al Gore’s friends who are members of the UN‘s International Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) and the 2,000 “scientists” who work for them, publish studies and (as we now know) fudge the data to make global warming appear worse than it is;
  • 500 employees of United Nations Environmental Program (UNEP) in Nairobi, and 188 Members of the World Meteorological Association, who jointly created the IPCC and publish literature on our impending doom ;
  • 314 Congressmen and 86 Senators who responded by voting for the 2007 “Energy Independence and Security Act,” which requires incandescent light bulbs to be phased out by 2014;
  • 400 legislative staffers who advise those 314 Congressmen and 86 Senators on energy issues;
  • 257 staffers who work for the 4 House Committees that wrote the bill;
  • 127 staffers who work for House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, and majority Whip James Clyburn, the leaders who pushed the bill through the House;
  • 245 staffers who work for the 3 Senate Committees that worked on the bill;
  • 60 employees of Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and Majority Whip Richard Durbin, who led the bill through the upper House;
  • 1 President to sign the bill into law;
  • 12 White House Council on Environmental Quality staffers who advised the President to do so;
  • 18,000 employees of the EPA and 15,000 DOE workers who are now finalizing the regulations for phasing out Edison’s miracle through their joint “Energy Star Program.”

Part of the EPA and DOE work is to help us figure out what to do with the old bulbs (besides reminiscing).  We can simply throw them away when they burn out.  But not the new bulbs, the Compact Fluorescent (CFL) bulbs – they must be recycled carefully, because they contain mercury.  In fact, here is the government’s official advice about what to do if one accidentally breaks: everyone must immediately leave the house by some other route, turn off all heating and air conditioning, air out the house for at least 15 minutes, then clean up the glass and put it in a sealed container (they suggest a mason jar).  Next you must throw away any clothing or bedding that may have touched any of the broken glass.  Finally, the “next several times you vacuum,” you still have to open windows and shut off all ventilation.

Few people argue that the new CFL bulbs are more efficient, use less electricity, and last longer.  I use them myself.  But some people don’t, citing the different colors and visual effects of fluorescent lighting.  Personally, I don’t care what kind of bulbs people use in their own homes – I guess that’s why we have big government.

After Edison had tried and failed 9,000 times to find the right material for a light bulb filament that would glow but not burn, he finally found the right combination and changed our world.  It took years of hard work by a team of two dozen assistants.  That’s why Edison sometimes said genius is “10% inspiration and 90% perspiration.”  We can only speculate about what he would have thought of today’s government banning his crowning achievement.  In 1879, it took 24 people to invent the incandescent bulb, and in our time about 37,221 to ban it.  So which has advanced further: science or government?