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?






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

  1. People used to drive to Canada to get toilets that would actually flush. Then after a while the toilet makers improved the technology so the new ones would actually do the job.

    I wonder if it will be the same with light bulbs? Has Canada banned them, too? Maybe we’ll have to drive to Mexico to get some until the CFL makers can come up with something that doesn’t have that annoying hum. Or maybe the LED makers will be able to get their prices out of the stratosphere.

    • The bulbs have been banned in Australia already, and only one or two other countries, so maybe there will be a “black market” for a time – perhaps until the CFL bulbs are cheaper?

  2. Pingback: The American Spectator : AmSpecBlog : No Joke About Light Bulbs

  3. The CFL bulbs do NOT last longer.


  5. amen to that ,Kitty.They also interfere w/AM radios.Thanks,GE.

  6. If they came up with a new bulb that used substantially less electricity yet had the same reliability, brightness, color balance and price of the incandescent I would have no problem changing to them. But…. the CFLs don’t last as long (I’ve had to replace several after less than a year), the color balance can only be called gruesome and they are not as bright.
    Also, why are we suddenly so concerned about disposal. There are trillions of the old long tube fluorescents in landfills everywhere.
    Also(2).. It takes 2 gov’t officials to change a light bulb. One to assure the public that everything possible is being done and one to screw the new bulb into a faucet..

  7. E Brian Shields

    I originally purchased the cfl bulbs to conserve energy and for their “longer” life. After seeing them die as quick (or quicker) than incandescents; not to mention their dimness until warm I see why the government is pushing them on us; they want our lighting to be as ineffecient as our government.

  8. Great article, many thanks for publishing it.

    Any of the House and Senate members who voted to approve the CFL Law are Political Lemmings and are not looking out for the good of America. In the House bill (H.R.6 18 Dec 2007), there were a total of 314 yeas and only 100 nays; only 4 Dems and 96 Repubs voted ‘NO’ on this Poison America legislation. Shame on them!

    The ‘fault tree’ from this banning incandescent light bulbs will be terrible: murcury poisoning of our water and food supply from CFLs improperly dumped in the garbage.

    “Mercury poisoning of Chinese factory workers: In the past decade, hundreds of Chinese factory workers who manufacture CFLs for export to first world countries were being poisoned and hospitalized because of mercury exposure. Examples include workers at the Nanhai Feiyang lighting factory in Foshan city where 68 out of 72 were so badly poisoned that they required hospitalization. At another CFL factory in Jinzhou, 121 out of 123 employees were found to have excessive mercury levels with one employee’s mercury level 150 times the accepted standard.”
    (From Wikipedia: )

    Americans should petition our law makers in Washington to remove the ‘ban’ on incandescent lights and make the CFLs illegal to import and use.

    This is the problem with voting too quickly on important issues before the facts are known.

  9. I’ve been laying in a supply of incandescent light bulbs ever since I heard of the ban. I detest those CFL bulbs with their odd color. Now I’ve got a closet half filled with the incandescents, and by 2014 I’ll have accummulated enough of them to last a lifetime if not more. I encourage everyone to start laying in a supply. Once they can no longer be bought on the open market, they’ll be more expensive than the CFL’s, available only on the black market from those who had the foresight to sock a supply of them away.

  10. It is rather hard to get incandescents today in New York State.

    I have found CF’s tend to last longer than incandescents in my personal experience, though the efficiency drops like a stone when they are cold. I’ve not found problems with the color balance of the CF’s provided the light temp rating is the lowest possible. It still take a bit of time to warm up to get to maximum brightness.

    I believe that halogen bulbs are not included – and I have had good luck with those.

  11. No more dimmers and no more 3-waybulbs for openers. What a crock! We have mecury poisoning warnings on all sorts of things including fish but where are the concerns about these preposterous bulbs? Just look at the warnings in case of breakage and disposal. I’m incensed about a pack of fools making these decisions for us. Energy wouldn’t be an issue if these same dummies were able to come up with viable solutions to energy. In the Pacific Northwest we have hydroelectric power but the rest of the country needs solutions to coal. Natural gas doesn’t pollute and we’re sitting on scads of it. The problem with nuclear isn’t the system, it’s the people that build the plants. I hate to say it, but France has a handle on it. Where are the engineers? Ad Infinitum, Ad Naseum.

  12. Mail all your CFL burned out bulbs to your local Congressman or Senator, without a return adress. It would make quite a statement if enough people did so.

  13. Thousands of Americans should take their CFL’s and smash them all over the stair of the two houses and see if the senate and congress will walk through the poisonous gas. They can’t arrest thousands of people now, can they! That ought to send a message!

    • Actually, they can. When Congress passes an ill-advised law, I’m not sure breaking the law is the right response. It might be more effective if thousands of people asked their Congressmen and Senators to repeal it, and pointed out how inappropriate it is for government to dictate what kind of light bulbs people must use. We have almost evolved to the point where everything is considered a proper job for government – is there nothing we think is off-limits?

  14. Greg Williams

    Actually it only takes six Senators to change a light bulb. I know this because right after the Hart SOB opened the maintenance staff was changing a bulb for the very first time in the open atrium. They were using hydraulic equipment to reach the ceiling and six Senators were there helping (through the process of informed observation). I remember because I counted them. I think Greg’s old boss was there (Sen. Armstrong) and Senator Moynihan and Senators Helms and Dole but I can’t recall for sure.

  15. Who said I was not going to stockpile incandescent ones? And just try and come to inspect. Please.

    What in the world has happened to my country?

  16. Pingback: Light bulb bureaucracy… « Time for Thorns

  17. It is the year of health care reform, and aren’t we the lucky ones? With no threat going unnoticed, safety is apparently job one – except when it comes to democracy. Where’s the ‘safe zone’ for that? I’m sure there is still a limit to the power of government, but wherever that limit is, it’s getting a helluva lot harder to see it. Now where are those new bulbs I bought?!!

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