Energy Star wants more CFL subsidies

According to the article As C.F.L. Sales Fall, More Incentives Urged Energy Star products manager Richard Karney wants continued funding for CFL programs.

I find this rather stunning. Why should taxpayers and utility customers subsidise an arbitrarily chosen product with numerous quality problems and safety issues that customers don’t like, to give it an unfair market advantage over other products that customers prefer due to their safety, reliability, versatility and higher quality?

If a product is so unpopular and poorly designed that you have to give it away, isn’t that an indicator that it’s time to get back to the drawing board and focus on the mercury-free alternatives, making incandescent Halogen Energy Savers even more efficient, and LEDs brighter, cheaper, more incandescent-like and colour stable?

The N.Y. Times article also mentions its previous article about Halogen Energy Savers, Incandescent Bulbs Return to the Cutting Edge which says that in the U.S. these are sold exclusively at Home Depot (can’t find any in their online catalogue) and Amazon.com (obviously quite a bit pricier than here in Sweden where they’ve been freely available for a year). Isn’t this late introduction, high price and very restricted availability rather strange, considering the fact that you can buy cheap CFLs at the nearest gas station or supermarket? Does the lighting industry not want us to buy these new and improved halogen lamps which give the same top quality light as standard incandescent lamps but saving 20-50% energy?

What is it with CFLs that make them get all the special treatment, even though many are not more effective than the best halogen energy savers, contain mercury and have a long list of quality- and other problems?

Who pays for ‘free’ CFL handouts?

Lately, there have been world-wide announcements of free CFL givaways and special trade days where you can swap your incandescent bulb for a CFL. The recent Earth Day was one such day when many utilities, organisations and stores gave away free CFLs (though presumably not the highest quality bulbs on the market).

Here are just a few random examples of what seems to be a globally coordinated drive to give away CFLs by giving hesitant customers a free taste in the hope that they’ll buy more:

Home Depot Earth Day 1 Million CFL Giveaway (U.S.A)
250,000 Free Light Bulbs Distributed as CUB celebrates anniversary as State’s Largest Watchdog Group (Chicago, IL, U.S.A.)
California Utility Company has Comprehensive CFL Plan (California, U.S.A)
State Utility Distributes Free and Subsidized CFLs (Cape Town, South Africa)
Asian Development Bank to Fund Philippines’ Energy-Efficient Light Project; $100M Fuel Cost Savings Expected Annually
Maha Vitaran to offer CFL bulbs for free (India)
India Launches Plan to Distribute 400 Million Compact Fluorescent Lights to Households

Or is it that they’ve become so unpopular by people discovering their many drawbacks that they have to give them away now? 😉

But who pays for all these free bulbs that are given out?

We do, obviously. Taxpayers & customers. Whether we switch or not. Holdouts for Humble Bulb Defy a Government Phase-Out:

“To get government credits for green initiatives, local electricity companies are even giving them out free of charge.”

But why CFLs of all things? Why not free or subsidised intelligent sensors, dimmer switches and thermostats? Why not free bus, train and subway tickets?

Update 12 Oct: Some utilities even have the nerve to openly bill their customers for the “free” CFLs they’ve been handing out, and for the electricity these customers won’t be using:

Plan to distribute efficient light bulbs lands with a thud when consumers see bill