Starting next year, the United States will begin phasing out traditional incandescent bulbs in favor of compact fluorescent (CFL) bulbs, light-emitting diodes (LED) and other technologies. Oh - and the European Union has also mandated a switch.
Politicians and environmentalists rejoiced while regular people like you and me questioned how a light bulb that requires special disposal methods if broken could actually qualify as 'better.'
It's not just the mercury disposal - there are other drawbacks to CFLs, like the time it takes them to get to full strength, especially in colder temperatures, the type of light they emit which some people don't like, and their inability to work with dimmers.
But one of the biggest impacts of the upcoming ban is the impact it had on manufacturing in our country. Many incandescent bulb makers closed up shop and moved their production to countries that still allow such bulbs, like Mexico.
So where are the new, mercury-laden bulbs being produced? China.
And the latest news is that China has closed or nationalized their producers of rare earth metals, the materials which are used in these CFL bulbs and other 'green' products, which has sent their prices skyrocketing.
BEIJING — In the name of fighting pollution, China has sent the price of compact fluorescent light bulbs soaring in the United States.
By closing or nationalizing dozens of the producers of rare earth metals — which are used in energy-efficient bulbs and many other green-energy products — China is temporarily shutting down most of the industry and crimping the global supply of the vital resources.
China produces nearly 95 percent of the world’s rare earth materials, and it is taking the steps to improve pollution controls in a notoriously toxic mining and processing industry. But the moves also have potential international trade implications and have started yet another round of price increases for rare earths, which are vital for green-energy products including giant wind turbines, hybrid gasoline-electric cars and compact fluorescent bulbs.
General Electric, facing complaints in the United States about rising prices for its compact fluorescent bulbs, recently noted in a statement that if the rate of inflation over the last 12 months on the rare earth element europium oxide had been applied to a $2 cup of coffee, that coffee would now cost $24.55.
An 11-watt G.E. compact fluorescent bulb — the lighting equivalent of a 40-watt incandescent bulb — was priced on Thursday at $15.88 on Wal-Mart’s Web site for pickup in a Nashville, Ark., store. (emphasis added)
CFLs are more expensive than incandescents to begin with - and now their price is going up even more. Even Walmart had to raise the price they charge!
But it's not just the light bulbs. These rare earth metals are used in a lot of 'green' products (emphasis added):
“The high cost of rare earths is having a significant chilling effect on wind turbine and electric motor production in spite of offsetting government subsidies for green tech products,” said one of the conference attendees, Michael N. Silver, chairman and chief executive of American Elements, a chemical company based in Los Angeles. It supplies rare earths and other high-tech materials to a wide range of American and foreign businesses.
The linked article explains that this shut-down is expected to last for about three months and, because they're using the excuse of 'environmental concerns,' "China could potentially try to circumvent international trade rules that are supposed to prohibit export restrictions of vital materials."
Imagine that! Do you think any politician or environmentalist thought about the fact that China is pretty much the only supplier for these materials and that, by eliminating 'old' alternatives, we'd be at the mercy of this communist nation? Don't you just hate those unintended consequences that politicians never consider?!?
But that's not all:
China has been imposing tariffs and quotas on its rare earth exports for the last several years, curtailing global supplies and forcing prices to rise eightfold to fortyfold during that period for the various 17 rare earth elements.
Even before this latest move by China, the United States and the European Union were preparing to file a case at the W.T.O. this winter that would challenge Chinese export taxes and export quotas on rare earths.
So now we have no alternatives and are at the mercy of the Chinese government and their whims since they're taking over the independent producers.
Beijing authorities are creating a single government-controlled monopoly, Bao Gang Rare Earth, to mine and process ore in northern China, the region that accounts for two-thirds of China’s output. The government is ordering 31 mostly private rare earth processing companies to close this year in that region and is forcing four other companies into mergers with Bao Gang, said Li Zhong, the vice general manager of Bao Gang Rare Earth.
The government also plans to consolidate 80 percent of the production from southern China, which produces the rest of China’s rare earths, into three companies within the next year or two, Mr. Li said. All three of these companies are former ministries of the Chinese government that were spun out as corporations, and the central government still owns most of the shares.
The Chinese government now has a monopoly. The prices have already gone up and are likely to go up even more.
Aren't you glad we're no longer making and using incandescent bulbs in the U.S.?
I think this qualifies as 'stuck-on-stupid.'