Friday, March 25, 2011

Government insanity: 'free' CFL light bulb program

Let's start with a summary so everyone can understand where we are on the whole concept of why FirstEnergy Corp. is giving out 'free' CFL light bulbs, as noted in this news article. Here is what I wrote in October 2009 when this first came to my attention:

The insanity of certain government mandated energy-saving programs is on full display here in Ohio with the recent issue of the 'gift' of compact fluorescent light bulbs (CFLs) to homeowners in the state.

The Bullet Points:

* Ohio politicians pass 'bold, new' energy law (aren't they great???)
* Law puts mandate on energy producers to get their customers to reduce consumption (yes, that's what the law does...)
* Electric company develops program to 'give' us all CFL light bulbs - at a cost 67% more than we'd pay for the bulbs in the store
* Government agency 'allows' company to recoup costs of program - including the cost of energy NOT used because of the energy-reducing product
* Public expresses outrage
* Ohio politicians begin backtracking

As one of the comments, said, "If I hadn't seen it...or hadn't heard it...I wouldn't believe the stupidity of all envolved (stet) ...."

But that's not all. Shortly after this original post, the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio (PUCO) granted FirstEnergy an extension because of all the hullabaloo over the issue. Now we find that they've finally approved the plan - with modifications.

So now we have a 'free' (though we're paying for it) light bulb program that FirstEnergy is going to run. We're going to pay for the light bulbs whether we take them or not, and, when we end up using less electricity, FirstEnergy is going to be able to recoup the money we won't be paying as a result.

And just to highlight the ridiculousness of it all, this is a plan that is supposed to cover 2010-2012. How nice that it's finally gotten approval halfway through the term!

Let's take a look at how much this is 'really' going to save us. The company was originally going to give everyone two light bulbs and charge $.60 per month over three years for a total of about $21.60. In 2009, a four-pack of the same bulbs was only $8.

Under the plan just approved, we're going to get six bulbs and be charged $.30 per month over three years for a total of about $10.80 - half what was originally proposed.

However - and this is a BIG however - FirstEnergy isn't going to charge us just the $.30. They've received permission to charge customers $1.50 per month for three years to fund the program (the $.30 per month for the bulbs) and to cover "lost distribution revenue." That's the amount of money we won't be paying FirstEnergy because we've reduced our energy consumption.

So, I'm going to pay $54 for the 'privilege' of using six "free" CLF light bulbs when I could go to Walmart and purchase the same thing for $2.53 each - a total of $15.16 plus sales tax.

My phrase, 'stuck on stupid,' just doesn't seem to cover the insanity of this.

Now, FirstEnergy is stating that I can save money by using these bulbs - $49.25 annually or $147.75 over the three year period. And that, they justify, is actually a savings for us ($147.75 energy savings minus the $54 cost) of $93.75. Woo Hoo!

But think about it - without the program mandated by our elected officials in Columbus, I could purchase six bulbs for $15.16, install them and save $147.75 over three years, for a net savings of $132.59. That's 41% more than I'd save using the government-mandated, PUCO-approved, 'free' giveaway.

But we're supposed to be happy and 'feel good' about our elected officials who've come up with this idiocy.

As I wrote two years ago, and I still believe:

Don't blame FirstEnergy for doing what the law requires. Blame the politicians and Governor who passed the law in the first place.

These elitist statists are trying to force us to conform to their opinion of how to save energy - but they're not telling us directly, because we'd revolt if they mandated what kind of light bulb we had to buy.

Instead, they've created a mandate on a supplier of a product, forcing the supplier to try and find a way to get their customers to use less of their product.

This is more than 'stuck on stupid.' It's insane!

I'll repeat: That's like telling Starbucks that people drink too much coffee and they need to get their customers to drink less. Is this not unrealistic and bordering upon 'insanity'?

And, now that we've seen what the program will actually look like, we know that government isn't really helping us at all. They are costing us money - while telling us they're giving us something for free - and claiming to help the environment at the same time that they're dictating our consumer choices.

As it stands today, I'm going to end up paying for a product I do not want and, if I return the product to the supplier, I'm going to be charged. In any other situation, I'd have legal recourse in the courts. Ohio has specific laws to prevent me from being billed for items I did not order and do not want. Apparently, though, when lawmakers crafted this law, they missed the irony of the contradiction.

Maybe I will pursue a lawsuit over the matter - wonder what my chances are of winning?

"[I]f the public are bound to yield obedience to laws to which they cannot give their approbation, they are slaves to those who make such laws and enforce them." ~ Candidus in the Boston Gazette, 1772


skeeter1107 said...

In a variation of the Boston Tea Party, would it be okay if I crushed them up and dumped (mailed) them back to the PUCO or the Ohio Statehouse?

Maggie said...

Sadly, no, Skeeter - they contain mercury and other such hazards...I'm sure you'd be violating some law should you follow through on that idea.


TS said...

It's apparently time for a class-action lawsuit against the PUCO and First Energy.

Bob Madden said...

Only one comment comes to mind...WTF? I thought Ohio had solid republican majorities. Kasich signed this crap?

Maggie said...

Bob - the law has been in place for several years and FirstEnergy has been endeavoring to comply with the requirement to produce a plan since 2009. This plan - which the PUCO just approved - is for 2010-2012.

Although, with GOP majorities, I'd say it's time for a repeal.

Bob Madden said...

Sorry... This just popped up on Facebook as though it had just happened. Didn't look at the date. Apparently someone else mistook it for recent, and i failed to check.

Maggie said...

Bob - no apologies necessary, as the approval of the plan just happened this past week and we're all now going to be getting our very costly "free" light bulbs...


Bob Madden said...

No doubt you feel quite fortunate to live in such a generous state that is so concerned with your well-being.

On a side note: Your comment system appears overly cumbersome. I am already logged in via google, but it still wants me to type in the word verification, and after that has to go through comment moderation?

I also noticed you have a domain name, but it redirects people to this free site? A domain name is the largest cost when setting up your own site. Just adding hosting somewhere is actually quite cheap, and fairly easy to manage.

Unless of course your are an old geek like me, and have trouble resisting the urge to tinker.

Take Care
Bob Madden

Lighthouse said...

Thank you for this!

In relation...
How manufacturers and vested interests have pushed for the ban on regular light bulbs,
and lobbied for CFL favors:
with documentation and copies of official communications

Overall, of course,
no light bulbs should be banned:
There is no present or future shortage of energy sources for electricity
justifying telling what paying consumers can use,
especially since the overall USA energy savings from light bulb regulations
are less than 1% anyway,
based on the US Dept of Energy's own statistics ( )
-remember the politicians keep including non-incandescent street and industrial lighting in the usual high US usage percentages quoted.

Much greater, and much more relevant, energy waste savings arise from
effectively organized electricity generation and grid distribution,
and from reducing the unnecessary use of appliances:
rather than from stopping people in their personal choice of what appliance they want to use.

Unknown said...

They cost us money - while telling us they give us something for free - call to help the environment at the same time they dictate consumer choices we have.

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