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Does the Smiling Yellow Orb See the Light?
January 2, 2007 9:19 PM   Subscribe

Wal-Mart and the Light Bulb [NY Times link] - Wal-Mart officials admit their push to sell 100 million compact fluorescent lights per year is at least partially a marketing ploy, but if successful, it would increase the number of the energy-efficient bulbs in use by 50% while "saving Americans $3 billion in electricity costs and avoiding the need to build additional power plants for the equivalent of 450,000 new homes." Wal-Mart's environmental record is less than perfect, of course, but if they managed to pull this off it would be hard to see it as a bad thing.
posted by mrbula (111 comments total) 2 users marked this as a favorite

 
it would be hard to see it as a bad thing.

I think MeFites will find a way.
posted by frogan at 9:26 PM on January 2, 2007 [2 favorites]


Ya know, there is NOTHING that Walmart could do that could convince me that they have a motive other than profit.

The compnay sucks, they treat both customers and employees badly, they are a blight on the communities they exist in.

and... like fogan said...
posted by HuronBob at 9:33 PM on January 2, 2007


I think MeFites will find a way

Sir reporting for duty sir!

Due to mercury content and the chronic inability of most people to take five minutes to learn how to dispose of their trash properly, I am concerned that a widespread adoption of compact fluorescents without some kind of consumer education about (and facilitation of) appropriate disposal will lead to greater mercury pollution, which is already a significant problem.
posted by nanojath at 9:33 PM on January 2, 2007 [2 favorites]


This is where I step in in support of nanojath's theory:

Due to mercury content and the chronic inability of most people to take five minutes to learn how to dispose of their trash properly...without some kind of consumer education about...appropriate disposal will lead to greater mercury pollution...

I have absolutely NO idea what you're talking about.
But I'm a custodian for a church and we've got a lot of those bulbs. So. Want to point me in the right direction? We can make a difference! Together!
posted by CitrusFreak12 at 9:38 PM on January 2, 2007


mmmmm, self-cannibalism...
"Because compact fluorescent bulbs last up to eight years, giant manufacturers, like General Electric and Osram Sylvania, would sell far fewer lights. Because the bulbs are made in Asia, some American manufacturing jobs could be lost. And because the bulbs contain mercury, there is a risk of pollution when millions of consumers throw them away.

"Michael B. Petras, vice president of lighting at G.E., concedes that 'the economics are better with incandescent bulbs.'

"All that has only spurred Wal-Mart to redouble its efforts — and, in typical fashion, it is asking those who may be hurt by the change to help achieve it."
also btw Wal-Mart's Solar Dream:
"Wal-Mart doesn't mention a specific purchase size, but my sources tell me that the company could put solar on as many as 340 stores in the next few years. Assuming that each store utilized about 300 kilowatts of solar panels (it could be as much as 500 kilowatts), we're talking roughly 100 megawatts of solar. To put that into perspective, the solar system currently being installed at Google headquarters in California -- the largest single corporate solar installation in history -- is 1.6 MW, about 1/60th the size."
posted by kliuless at 9:39 PM on January 2, 2007


and... like frogan said...

I was being sarcastic.

I think this is a great thing. You can jump up and down and scream and gripe and wave anti-capitalist pamphlets and vote to change zoning laws to keep the bastards out ... or you can recognize steps toward good behavior when they show themselves. At the end of the day, Wal-Mart will sell light bulbs, period.

I'll let the scientists duke it out over the mercury content of the fluorescent bulbs. But Wal-Mart is a colossal engine of commerce with an unbelievable mastery of logistics, whether us comfortably rich suburban white people want to admit it or not. It'd be fairly cool if the company did something, anything, to play nice with the environment.
posted by frogan at 9:40 PM on January 2, 2007


As much as I dislike Wal-Mart, I gotta admit that the solar idea is pretty brilliant. I mean, look at the shape of their buildings, they are just begging to have solar panels laid all over the top. It would over the long run be a potentially profitable move on the companies part and it would help to reduce the sizable footprint they leave. In fact, the only ones that seem like they will suffer for this idea is the power companies, and they are one of few groups I tend to like even less than Wal-Mart. So screw 'em.

As to the mercury in the compact fluorescent lights, our chief complaint seems to be their safe disposal. Perhaps the lighting companies will step up and include proper disposal descriptions on their packaging. That and and some other basic efforts at public education could really make this 'good thing'.

I know, I think I just defended Wal-Mart. I'm scared too
posted by quin at 9:52 PM on January 2, 2007 [1 favorite]


HuronBob, but isn't it actually a good thing if a corporation finds reason to sell economically better profits? If we're going to attempt to make our footprint on the world a lot less, we have to find some reason to justify it for people who don't really understand the issues.

So what if they want to make a profit, of course they don't want to lose money on a venture even if they're already loaded. The point is that their doing it-- isn't that good enough?
posted by taursir at 9:52 PM on January 2, 2007


As someone who has always suffered from "the winter blues", I decided to replace all of my bulbs with these last summer. I have noticed that I am much less mopey this winter.
On the other hand, I know some people (including my housemate) who HATE these bulbs, so she runs incandescents in little lamps.
Honestly, if Wal-mart succeeds in this, that would be cool based on what limited knowledge I have of these bulbs. I would really like to see an in-depth study of the relative energy costs, from maufacturing all the way to disposal.
posted by eparchos at 10:04 PM on January 2, 2007


I use flourescents for all the lights that don't get used much.

Can't stand them for actual lighting.
posted by smackfu at 10:13 PM on January 2, 2007


CitrusFreak12 - it varies from community to community. There are often either retail or municipal places to recycle them, and it may or may not cost to do so. You could start with a generic search, or look for resources on your city government websites, looking for waste disposal, hazardous waste disposal, etc. For me, for example, the google search string "dispose fluorescent minneapolis" (no quotes) turned up plenty of relevant results.

WRT the science, the problem with mercury is that it tends to bioaccumulate, meaning that rather than just getting dispersed through the environment, it gets into the food chain and ends up piling up in, say, fish, which is why you get guidelines on how many fish it's safe to eat per year out of your local lake, which kind of sucks. If they just get tossed in the regular waste stream the mercury these bulbs contain will get into the environment, the cumulative effect is significant. So, you're concern in disposing of them properly is to be commended, and spread the word.
posted by nanojath at 10:13 PM on January 2, 2007


"... but if they managed to pull this off it would be hard to see it as a bad thing."

But what about all the Mum & Dad light bulb shops? They'll go out of business!
posted by Effigy2000 at 10:15 PM on January 2, 2007 [1 favorite]


I am going to artfully straddle the fence in this manner.

I think that a reduction of energy usage by the replacement of standard incandescent bulbs with CFBs is a step in the right direction, any way that you look at it.

However, when I finally replace all the light bulbs in the house with CFBs, I will probably not be buying them from Wal-Mart.
posted by deusdiabolus at 10:19 PM on January 2, 2007


And there is nothing, really, for scientists to duke it out about, frogan. The mercury issue is not, to my knowledge, the subject of any dispute. It's there, it's real, it's an environmental issue - honestly I don't know how it stacks up compared to other mercury sources and how you would compare the benefits of saving energy versus the problems of increasing mercury pollution is beyond me. But it should definitely be part of this conversation.

It's just an education issue (and if adoption of compact fluorescents were to be wide enough, someday maybe a practical/logistical issue to manage the disposal/recycling) that needs to go on alongside the promotion of this valid, valuable energy-saving technology. I really do hope Wal-Mart will take a part in educating people and maybe even facilitating the actual recycling. Maybe they are, or have plans to, I don't know.
posted by nanojath at 10:21 PM on January 2, 2007


However, when I finally replace all the light bulbs in the house with CFBs, I will probably not be buying them from Wal-Mart.

Right, the best of both worlds. Hit up CostCo instead.
posted by nanojath at 10:22 PM on January 2, 2007


Based on my electricity costs of 13c (Aus)/kwh and typical life expectancies, every CFL I use saves me about $50. I haven’t bought an incandescent in about 8 years. People who ‘don’t like the light’ are a bit funny – modern CFLs come in a range of luminescences, from harsh blue to soft yellow.
posted by wilful at 10:25 PM on January 2, 2007


Oh, it is worth noting from the original article -

Then there is the mercury inside the bulbs, a problem Wal-Mart is working with the federal government and environmental groups to resolve, possibly by collecting the bulbs at its stores or off-site locations for recycling.

So it is at least on their radar.

I've been switching over to these over the last couple years, and yeah, I don't like the light as well, though the newer bulbs are better in all respects.
posted by nanojath at 10:26 PM on January 2, 2007


Due to mercury content and the chronic inability of most people to take five minutes to learn how to dispose of their trash properly, I am concerned that a widespread adoption of compact fluorescents without some kind of consumer education about (and facilitation of) appropriate disposal will lead to greater mercury pollution, which is already a significant problem.

How does the mercury content of these bulbs compare to the mercury emissions of coal-fired powerplants? The burning of coal is the largest contributor of human-generated mercury emissions, being vaporized into the atmosphere to power your light bulbs. Does the energy saving of compact fluorescent lights offset their mercury content?

My guess is that mercury in landfills is not as much of a problem and mercury spewing into the atmosphere. Anyone have an inclination to quantify this comparison?
posted by peeedro at 10:26 PM on January 2, 2007


The future is LED bulbs. They're even more efficient then florescent, and you can make them any color you like. I've noticed that the tube lights are actually have a sort of tan off white sort of light. I don't know of they're trying to 'compensate' or what
posted by delmoi at 10:32 PM on January 2, 2007


And there is nothing, really, for scientists to duke it out about, frogan. ... honestly I don't know ... how you would compare the benefits of saving energy versus the problems of increasing mercury pollution is beyond me.

How does the mercury content of these bulbs compare to the mercury emissions of coal-fired powerplants?


And that's why we let the scientists duke it out.

Bah dum bump, ksssss...
posted by frogan at 10:33 PM on January 2, 2007


Could be that Walmart doesn't make enough profit margin on incandescent bulbs, but can make a larger one on these. Plus, the money saved just ends up in their pockets on other purchases (again, maybe with larger margins) anyway, in towns where Walmart has killed the competition.
posted by Kickstart70 at 10:37 PM on January 2, 2007


And that's why we let the scientists duke it out.

That's my point; instead of a knee-jerk "there's mercury in them" reaction, I hope that we can recognize that inefficient lighting is a cause of mercury pollution already through the burning of coal. If anyone is inclined to support their argument that CF lights increase mercury pollution, instead of reducing it or concentrating it into less harmful emissions (landfill vs atmospheric), I'd be glad to read up on it. If you think that it will cause more mercury pollution, give me a reason to believe that.
posted by peeedro at 10:46 PM on January 2, 2007


Do you suppose WalMart will require a proof of purchase before accepting a defunct CFB? If any of mine die, I would be glad to contribute them, but of course I would not go to the extreme of actually buying them from WalMart.
posted by Cranberry at 10:51 PM on January 2, 2007


Not long from now, kids will be watching some old cartoon where somebody suddenly gets a Bright Idea, and they'll have to think "Oh yeah, that's what light bulbs looked like back then."

As long as it's safer than that radium factory, I suppose it's progress. A lot of folks still prefer older, warmer tech like tubes over digital, so the old style bulb might linger on for a while in similar fashion, despite the power of the Wal-Mart.
posted by First Post at 10:51 PM on January 2, 2007


delmoi beat me to this point, and is so very right. As much as CF lights are good or bad, they are temporary tech. None of these arguments are going to matter in 10 years when we are all using arrayed 3 watt LED clusters in place of our existing bulbs. CF lasts, what? Five times longer? LEDs last 11+ years with a constant run time. And even more impressive, they do so with an even lower power requirement.

[Disclosure; I've been an LED light nerd since the first high power ones hit the market eight or so years ago. I have no vested interest in them replacing our common light sources, but I love the idea.]

[Fuller disclosure; have you all seen this? Maglight; a company that was pushed into irreverence by SureFire just decided to swing for the bleachers and introduce a cheap 3 watt bulb that is compatible with all their existing old flashlights, for a fraction of the cost of what a normal 3w LED projector costs. It is frigging awesome.]

[Fullest disclosure; I bought the damn thing from Wal-Mart because I found it there first. And now both my shame, and this circle is complete.]

posted by quin at 10:52 PM on January 2, 2007


Fast Company did an article about Wal Mart's big bulb plans a few months ago, and I read it, as I do with all things Wal Mart, with much skepticism. But after reading it, I was surpsingly no driven to tear apart Wal mart's plans. Occassionally a company can do something really good and still make/save lots of dollars, and this sounds like it could be one of instances. Knocking $6 million dollars off the in-store display celing fans annual energy bill is a hell of a motivator for them to embrace this concept. Plus they're in need of some good PR, so it makes sense. But I still haven't gone back into one of their stores to pick up a few to try - they sold me on the bulbs, not the store.
posted by Slack-a-gogo at 11:01 PM on January 2, 2007


My point, though, is not "let's not switch to these because of the mercury," or "these are bad, there's mercury in them." My point is that the mercury in these bulbs is easy to divert from the waste stream provided you educate people and provide a system to do so. That way, you win doubly. Even if you would end up introducing less mercury into the environment, due to the coal issue (which is a very good, valid point), it's not an excuse for not promoting proper disposal of these bulbs. But I'm certainly not advocating that a transition be delayed until the disposal issue is fully dealt with, for one thing it will be years before any upswing in adoption starts to make a serious impact on the waste stream.
posted by nanojath at 11:04 PM on January 2, 2007


it would be hard to see it as a bad thing.

I think MeFites will find a way.


Oooh! I found a way to see it as a bad thing! I have neurological problems and am photosensitive to the point where compact fluorescents give me headaches!

DIE WORLD, DIE! I WILL KILL YR OZONES WITH MY INCANDESCENT BULBS! FULL-SPECTRUM LIGHTING AHOY!
posted by grapefruitmoon at 11:10 PM on January 2, 2007


**hits grapefruitmoon in the back of the head with a lead sap**

Sorry folks, nothing to see here. Move along.

This person just had a bad reaction to some flashing lights. It's OK. Go back to your homes and don't discuss this with your neighbors.

We are here to help you... Unless you get in our way. Now Move Along!
posted by quin at 11:56 PM on January 2, 2007


I would think that a grapefruit moon would not need any artificial illumination.
posted by Cranberry at 12:02 AM on January 3, 2007


Coal-fired power plants are a contributor to mercury emissions. By using compact fluorescent lamps you reduce the amount of coal required to light your home.

This graph compares the mercury from using a CFL to that from using incandescent lamps.

The amount of mercury in a CFL is about 3 milligrams, which is less than one cubic millimeter -- about the size of a period at the end of a sentence.

Wal-Mart's plans for 100 million CFLs per year would be about 300 kilograms of mercury, less than half a ton. Coal plants emit about 48 tons of mercury per year in the U.S. So while a concern, the mercury in CFLs is small and could be reduced by an aggressive recycling plan.
posted by JackFlash at 12:09 AM on January 3, 2007


I would think that a grapefruit moon would not need any artificial illumination.

Yes, a grapefruit moon (a moon resembling a grapefruit) would be nice. But I am merely a grapefruitmoon (a moon the size of a grapefruit) and can not light up my entire apartment.

But that doesn't stop me from trying.

Or getting hit on the head with pipes, apparently.

When Wal-Mart starts selling vicodin, could someone wake me up? I'll be over in Meta-Talk, in the alley of lost call-outs, behind the Flame-Out bar, sleeping it off with all the other bums.
posted by grapefruitmoon at 12:21 AM on January 3, 2007


At worst, the amount of mercury released from
these compact fluorescents, if they are not recycled, is
about the same as what would have been released by
burning the coal and using incandescents.

There are some important differences, though. The mercury
in the CFLs is rather concentrated and well contained
compared to the mercury in coal. It is easily recycled, so
mercury recovery from recycling will constitute the largest
and easiest proportion of the improvement in mercury
emissions obtained by using CFLs.

(a CFL may contain 2 to 15 milligrams of mercury.
Coal is 26 million BTUs per ton, and 2500 kilowatt hours/ton,
and 5.2 lbs mercury per 10**12 BTUs of heat energy. You
end up with 61 milligrams of mercury per ton of coal burned.
100 million compact fluorescents, at 20 watts apiece (for
100 watt equivalent light), with lifetimes of 6000 hours).
posted by the Real Dan at 12:33 AM on January 3, 2007


Hurray for Walmart! The whole point of all the R&D into more environmentaly benign technologies is to get the technology to the stage where it is economically competitive and companies can sell it profitably. Pretty much we're stuck with capitalism, we need to work within the system to solve our environmental problems to whatever extent we can - given that, someone is always going to get rich on providing for large-scale societal needs, better they get rich on less damaging products. So Walmart plugging these things is great, bring on Shell and BP profiting from renewable energy, because it means them putting big chunks of capital in and lots more deployment.
posted by biffa at 2:50 AM on January 3, 2007


It should be noted that, at least in italy, Ikea already launched a couple years ago a massive CF sale and the prices were very low (bought 5 for I don't remember how much..but I remember it was low) and they went away by the pallet.
posted by elpapacito at 3:50 AM on January 3, 2007


> I've been switching over to these over the last couple years, and yeah, I don't like the light as
> well, though the newer bulbs are better in all respects.

channeling Steven Den Beste:

It can help to pay attention to the bulb's marked color temperature. This is usually shown somewhere in the fine print on the package or extra-fine print on the bulb base. 3000K reads as "the same color as a theoretical black body glowing at 3000 degrees Kelvin." 3000K ("soft white") = YALLER! which I can't stand if it isn't candlelight. 6500K = over on the distinctly blue side of blue-white.

This is most useful in light fixtures with multiple sockets like the ones over my bathroom mirror and on the living room ceiling. All-YALLER is awful, all blue-white makes people look like aliens, but two of each gives a very nice color balance, a lot like GE Reveal incandescents. On my drawing/painting board I also use one of each in goosenecks and try to pull them close together, though this does give some funny-colored shadows when my hand is close to the work surface.
posted by jfuller at 3:52 AM on January 3, 2007 [1 favorite]


I think I'll embrace the idea and not the company. It's a step in a positive direction, even if just for their public reputation.
posted by dflemingdotorg at 3:57 AM on January 3, 2007 [1 favorite]


From the second link:
"Note that coal power plants are the single largest source of mercury emissions into the environment. According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), (when coal power is used) the mercury released from powering an incandescent bulb for five years exceeds the sum of the mercury released by powering a comparably luminous CFL for the same period and the mercury contained in the lamp." (Wikipedia)
posted by Huplescat at 5:05 AM on January 3, 2007


Ya know, there is NOTHING that Walmart could do that could convince me that they have a motive other than profit.

The part that worries me here is that you seem to be specific about walmart when it is actually a corporation's legal obligation to pursue profit. If they adopted this strategy while knowing that it would hurt the bottom line the management would be rightfully canned.
posted by srboisvert at 5:35 AM on January 3, 2007


1. the light from these bulbs is terrible
2. G.E. going out of light bulb biz
3. costly to begin with and most of us think short term
4. made in China if Walmart selling them
5. as a sign of earnestness, Walmart ought to sell them
at 50 percent less then they usually go for.
posted by Postroad at 5:36 AM on January 3, 2007


Phillips makes the lowest mercury content CFL in the industry. For home users, the Philips Marathon has about 2 grams of mercury, which compared to others (see chart, bottom), is very low.
posted by stbalbach at 5:41 AM on January 3, 2007


partially a marketing ploy

Where did they say that it was a marketing ploy? Everything I've seen about this has said that the reason that they are doing it is to make money by selling them, not to trick eco-hippies into not hating them or something.
posted by 23skidoo at 5:46 AM on January 3, 2007


Grapefruitmoon: Ahh! I never thought about that. My mother is photosensitive and often gets migraines (that last for days) from certains types of lighting. This calls for experimentation.

Nanojath: "If they have green ends, these bulbs can be thrown away in the trash. If they have silver ends, they must be disposed through Eco-Depot. Call 401-942-1430 x241 for an appointment."

Sweet. Thanks dude.
posted by CitrusFreak12 at 5:51 AM on January 3, 2007


The part that worries me here is that you seem to be specific about walmart when it is actually a corporation's legal obligation to pursue profit.

I'm afraid there's a substantial number of MeFites with a residue of what Lenin used to call "infantile leftism"—they may recognize that socialist economies have failed miserably, but they still feel there's something bad about profit. Nasty, evil profit! None of us would do anything to make (shudder) money! Well, except for that job, of course, and maybe selling something on eBay, but that's not profit, right? We're not like those nasty, evil capitalists, right? Right??

As for the fluorescent bulbs, I won't buy any bulb whose light I don't like. If they make a bulb with a pleasing, natural-looking light, I'll be happy to save energy. (And no, I don't intend to buy collections of two different nasty-looking lights in the hope that if you mix them they'll look decent. If they can put a man on the moon, they can make an energy-saving light that looks good all by itself.)
posted by languagehat at 5:56 AM on January 3, 2007


The interesting thing about this is not that Walmart is planning to make a profit (duh!), but that it seems that only Walmart has the leverage to make the bulb companies take CFL seriously --- regular incandescent bulbs (with their frequent replacements) are much more profitable for the bulb companies. I suspect that the same will be true, but more so, for LEDs. It may take cross-subsidies from electric utility companies to force deeper market penetration.

We changed every lightbulb in the house (except for a few specialized ones, like in the oven) over to CFLs a while back. The first ones I bought were awful --- harsh, very blue-white. But then I found multi-packs at Home Depot, with a tone very similar to the incandescents we had been using already. The only difference is that the CFLs take about 30 seconds to reach full illumination, so there is an odd moment after turning on a light of thinking, "I could have sworn it was brighter than this..." before the bulbs brighten fully.
posted by Forktine at 5:59 AM on January 3, 2007


Could be that Walmart doesn't make enough profit margin on incandescent bulbs, but can make a larger one on these.

Profitable or not as an item on the shelf, it's an excellent PR scheme -- the bulbs have a generally good reputation (despite some contrarian reactions), so by pushing an environmentally friendly product, Wal-Mart gets much more positive PR (including this metafilter post) than it ever could get by paying a PR firm to just talk about Wal-Mart. These bulbs will always remain a tiny part of Wal-Mart's business and have little effect on how good or bad Wal-Mart (giant box stores whose locations increase car use, zillions of trucks chugging everywhere, ships, big warehouses, factories in places with lax environmental regulations, etc.) is for the environment and society, but they promote the idea that Wal-Mart isn't so bad, that it cares about doing good, and that it is ahead of the other retailers. Wal-Mart cares is what they hope you'll think when you go there to buy your bulbs.
posted by pracowity at 6:01 AM on January 3, 2007


LEDs last 11+ years with a constant run time. And even more impressive, they do so with an even lower power requirement.

LEDs are impressive, but they're still not there. The big problem is total luminance. Even the big multi-die LEDs -- here's a datasheet on the Luxeon K2 emitters -- top out at 140 lumens. There's no price listed for the 140 lumen die, a 100 lumen white K2 is listed at $3.25US. Note this is just a die, it doesn't include the circuitry to drive them. The thermal issue of arrays of these LEDs are still pretty tough to deal with.

For $3.25, I can get four 75W Sylvania Daylight incandescents, each able to push out 850 lumens.

LEDs are damn useful, but not in area lighting, and I think it'll be a long while before they are. Anything involving focused light, and LEDs rapidly become competitive.

There's a reason most LEDs have the output rated in candlea, rather than lumens. Candela has an area component, lumen does not.

Or to compare. This LED I'm holding, an 8mm White, is rated at 130,000 mCd, or 130 candela. This 100W light bulb that I'm not holding is also rated at 130 candela.

However, the 100W light puts out that 130 candela in almost all directions. The 8mm LED's coverage is a 8" wide circle on a wall 10 feet away.

For luminous efficiency, the current winner is Sulfur lamps, at 100 lumens per watt. The big reason? Almost no UV, and little IR output -- 73% emittance in visible light. If you 100W incandescent did that, it'd put out about 10 times as much light.

The problem? Cost, size, and the fact that you can't make them small. The first production lamp drew 1400 watts, but emitted over 140,000 lumens of light -- in a small package. You need to use light tubes or large reflectors to spread out the light.

Example use: The Air & Space Museum replaced dozens of 500W halogens in the main halls with four sulfur lamps mounted to light pipes.

The time of resistive incandescents is coming to an end, but LEDs are only part of the reason why. LEDs rule at small, long lasting and somewhat power efficient, but they're still not cheap, color rendition is still spotty (and color consistency amongst white LEDs is a problem -- manufacturers have to sort them by how white they are.) LEDs are picky about power (a little too much current=instant death) and if you're using RGB mixing, the different forward voltages of the different color LEDs is a headache.

When it comes to lighting up large areas, there are much betters ways -- what they are depends on your goal. For most efficient? Low pressure sodium, at nearly 200 lumen per watt. Problem? Monochromatic, giving a CRI of 0. Halogens are perfect blackbodies, thus, a CRI of 100, but top out at 25 lumen per watt.

Metal Halide discharge lamps are the compromise, easy to get 80 lumen per watt with a CRI of 90, but they're costly.

The best white LEDs have a CRI in the low 70s, because "white" LEDs aren't -- they're blue LEDs with an orange phosphor on them. In this regard, they're closer to Fluorescents than Incandescent lamps.
posted by eriko at 6:03 AM on January 3, 2007 [4 favorites]


Another bad thing: the sound the bulbs put out. It's as annoying as a mosquito buzzing in my ear.
posted by deborah at 6:09 AM on January 3, 2007


I'm afraid there's a substantial number of MeFites with a residue of what Lenin used to call "infantile leftism"—they may recognize that socialist economies have failed miserably, but they still feel there's something bad about profit. - languagehat

Very well said. However, there's "profit", and then there's profit.

Walmart is doing this really for two reasons: 1) increase the number of customers coming to the store, and 2) get monopsony power over yet another high volume/low margin product, in this case compact fluourescent bulbs.

Walmart is probably trying to cultivate an eco-friendly image to entice into the store the kind of environmentally conscious consumer that has probably avoided Walmart for political reasons.

Once those people are in the store, of course, they are likely to behave like everyone else - which is to shop on price.

And Walmarts strategy has always been to become the largest single buyer of every product they sell so they can dictate where and how it's made. This is how they can turn low margin products into high margin ones. A hairbrush that was once made in the us for $1.25 per unit and sold for $2, is not made in china and shipped for $.30. Walmart cuts the price to $1.50. You save $0.50, their marginal profit increases $0.45. Everybody wins, right?

Oh, except for that US factory that closed and the workers who got laid off. That's less tax revenue and additional burden on the state as solid middle class jobs, with benefits, are replaced by poverty line wage jobs with no benefits.

Also, in the specific case of these lights, I'm ignoring the externalities involved with the toxic metals that have to be mined, purified, and turned into lights.
posted by Pastabagel at 6:40 AM on January 3, 2007


Having worked for a major lamp manufacturer in the past....I simply love CFL's, the lowered heat and reduced energy comsumption. We have the double CFL floods on each corner of my house and we are getting exceptioanally long life out of the 8-10 CFL's we are currently using indoors.

To be safe, please do not use them in enclosed fuixtures, like recessed cans or the can that is used for 1 piece shower/tub inserts. They do not handle the heat in an enclosed fixture very well and also are not vibration resistant like the actual ceiling fan lights withthe stronger filament.

I know someone is waiting for this statement, but I Ain't Skeered - We get ours from SAMS CLUB. Apparently quite a few peeps on here have said their piece on WALMART, and I know SAMS is still WALMART. WTF, you do what you gotta do and I will do the same.

I pay the same for a 26W CFL, that has equal light output as a 75w Par38 FLood and we're getting about 4+ years per lamp compared to 2 years out of our best incandescent par lamp. There are certain distributors HQ'd in the TN. area and they are not concerned in the least about quality, oh sure, it's on their mission statement, but they buy the cheapest and cheapest isn't always the best.

Finally, we have comapanies over her that will recycle fluorescents, they have a machine that separates the epoxy, alum, mercury, glass and phosphorus and sells the individual parts to other manufacturers. If you are wondering about the cost to recycle, a standard F40T12CW, 4" long flourescent lamp costs about 1.00 most home imporvement store To recycle that same lamp is about 0.15/ft not bad. Keep in mind, a sign company, or a lighting company (replacing lamps on store canopies and such), is not allowed to simply throw them away. They must bring back to their workplace and dispose of them properly.

The users, BK, Micky-D's and various other companies however, are able, under law, to toss them in the dumpster and not even bother with storing them in cardboard containers for future recycling. If they utilize a lighting maintenance company, that maint co. must dispose of them properly as well.

FWIW, if I remember the scare tactics used in training classes, a tablespoon of mercury can contaminate a water table for something like 10,000 years. Not being a big environmentalist - someone here may have better environmental data to correct that last statement.
posted by winks007 at 7:04 AM on January 3, 2007


I think this is a great thing. You can jump up and down and scream and gripe and wave anti-capitalist pamphlets and vote to change zoning laws to keep the bastards out ... or you can recognize steps toward good behavior when they show themselves.

Or more on point, you can decide that even if it was a serial killer who planted that tree it's still okay to prune and water it.

just don't think too carefully about what they used for fertilizer
posted by phearlez at 7:11 AM on January 3, 2007


I've been switching to CFLs as other bulbs expire. A majority of the bulbs in my house are now an assortment of relative-60 and relative-100 W CFLs, some the twisty snowcone shape from Target or the drug store, some are rectangular and from Ikea.

If the light was unpleasant I wouldn't use them. If they made a detectable noise (and I'm sensitive to eg a CRT TV whine) I wouldn't use them. As it stands, though, I'm totally satisfied.

The only problem I've noticed is it takes about 15 seconds for the bulbs in the bathroom fixture to come to full strength.
posted by These Premises Are Alarmed at 7:19 AM on January 3, 2007


Three cheers for Walmart on this one. I don't give a rat's ass about their motivation, it will be a good thing in the end. As for all you folks who refuse to change just because you don't like the light's color, thanks for doing your part to screw the environment.
posted by caddis at 7:28 AM on January 3, 2007


deborah: Another bad thing: the sound the bulbs put out. It's as annoying as a mosquito buzzing in my ear.

In my experience, there's a significant difference between the best CFLs and the cheapest CFLs. The best ones are quiet and live up to their lifetime claims; the cheap and nasty ones buzz and burn out fast.

And even the more expensive name-brand CFLs use so little energy compared to traditional bulbs that they're (economically, at least) still a no-brainer.
posted by Western Infidels at 7:32 AM on January 3, 2007


winks007: To be safe, please do not use them in enclosed fuixtures, like recessed cans or the can that is used for 1 piece shower/tub inserts. They do not handle the heat in an enclosed fixture very well...

Some CFLs are actually designed for this sort of duty. The packaging usually states somewhere that the bulb is either approved or not approved for use in enclosed fixtures.

...and also are not vibration resistant like the actual ceiling fan lights with the stronger filament.

I haven't heard this before. I've got ceiling fan/light fixture at home. I run both the fan and the lights for several hours every day. The CFLs in it are about four years old and working fine.
posted by Western Infidels at 7:41 AM on January 3, 2007


I've used CFLs for several years now, here and in my parents' house. My rule of thumb was basically: if it's hard to reach, OR on for very long times, AND not used for reading, change it. In most cases I up the lumens to the 75-watt or 100-watt equivalent, depending, which compensates for what I think is a "softer" (go figure) light.

I also use them in ceiling cans, and I suppose I can see the potential risk there. I found that one brand said not to use them that way, but the other had no such warning. They put out a lot less heat, though, right?

In about three years of doing this I've only replaced two. One in a ceiling can that always was a problem because of vibration above, and another that was in the hall light my ADHD niece switched on and off all the time just to annoy people. That one blew about a month ago. It was very fascinating -- the ceramic ballast base must have shorted out. The glass bulb had only the slightest excitation, but the ceramic -- which looks opaque normally -- glowed blue. I got that out of there pretty quick but I was sorely tempted to watch it some more.

We don't have a bulb recycling program here so I just threw them in the trash. I didn't feel too bad because the last time I was at the dump a truck dumped out about half-a-dozen crates of the long fluorescent tubes.

But obviously, if a retailer like Wal-Mart were to be a resource of any significance, our city might be able to develop a bulb diversion plan.

This isn't going to make me start liking Wal-Mart, but I already get a few things there like cat litter. If they're going to try being marginally less bad, I'm not sure why I should object.
posted by dhartung at 7:46 AM on January 3, 2007


Excellent summary eriko, and you are exactly right, LEDs are not quite ready for prime time in home lighting yet. Which is why I arbitrarily guessed that it would be 10 years before we were using them to replace light bulbs. Look at the jumps they have made in the last 10 (from reasonably bright blue to 3w monsters that compete with xenon tactical lights for output.) Assuming that the development cycle continues to evolve into brighter and brighter technologies, it's not unreasonable to believe that they will figure out a way to cheapen the final product to the point where it is worth using as a light bulb replacement.

Really interesting point about the sulfur lamps though. I didn't realize they had those properties. Now I am going to have to spend some quality time digging into their specs.

Thanks.
posted by quin at 7:57 AM on January 3, 2007


Sulfur lamps, alas, are a ways (and may never be) general purpose lamps. The lamps themselves have a very nice lifetime -- 60,000 hours.

The problem is the magnetrons don't even last that long. Did I say magnetron? Yep.

Ever put a light bulb in the microwave? (Use Somebody Else's Microwave, of course, and only do it for a couple of second.) Wow, cool glow, eh?

Do that to powdered sulfur (enclosed with argon gas to keep oxygen away) and you won't even be able to look into the microwave while it is running. It's the one lamp I know of that combines efficiency and power handling, so you get the combination of 100 lumen per watt, and thousands of watts.

But, really, there aren't many places that need a 1KW lamp even with lousy efficiency, and the fact that the "socket" fails long before the lamp doesn't help. They also get pretty warm in use, but if you're drawing a kilowatt, your dealing with heat unless you have a superconducting cord and 100% conversion to visible light.

If they can solve the magnetron problem, anywhere that needs lots of light over a wide area is an obvious use. Airports leap to mind, and indeed, there are several airports in Sweden using the lamps now, firing into curved reflectors that spread the light out over a very large area.
posted by eriko at 8:32 AM on January 3, 2007


I'm confused about this. While the fluro has 4 mg of mecury in the bulb, the incandescent has 10mg in emissions, making it the worse one. How exactly does it emit mercury? Is that referring to the emissions from power generation?

enlighten me.
posted by daHIFI at 9:06 AM on January 3, 2007


daHIFI: How exactly does it emit mercury? Is that referring to the emissions from power generation?

Yes. It's almost certainly referring to the mercury released by the burning of coal, which is the most common way of producing electricity in the US.

It's worth noting that the burning of coal releases a lot of nasty stuff besides mercury into the air; debating the mercury content of CFLs vs. the mercury released by a coal-fired power plant may be a case of missing the forest for the trees.
posted by Western Infidels at 9:27 AM on January 3, 2007


i only use lamps fueled with wale oil.
posted by nola at 9:36 AM on January 3, 2007


I see a lot of people making blanket dismissals like "they make a buzzing noise" or "the light is terrible."

These are very strange observations to me.

Modern (and by "modern" I mean anything I've seen in the last 10 years) CFs have no sound that I can hear. (And yes, though I'm over 40, I can, apparently, hear high pitched noises -- the "mosquito" tone makes me want to tear my own head off.) And as noted elsewhere, the color temperature of CF bulbs varies widely, so anyone claiming "the light is terrible" as a general statement is clearly wrong.

I looked into edison socketed LED bulbs about a year ago. I was hot for them -- until I looked more closely at the lumen output. Awful.

One thing I don't see mentioned here: Dirty power. We have low and inconstant voltage in a lot of our sockets, and I've found that CFs burn out in those sockets after about a year of use. That makes them siginificantly less cost effective -- though at current prices, especially for the can floods in the basement, they probably still save us money.
posted by lodurr at 9:43 AM on January 3, 2007


Save your money, the 99 cent store sells CFLs.
posted by euphorb at 10:59 AM on January 3, 2007


Those who think they don't like the light need to re-read the thread, take the good advice about color temperatures, and try again.

And these lights don't buzz. They used to flicker starting up, but today they're all instant start.

There is simply no excuse to screw in an incandescent bulb anymore, except in a few specialty fixtures like ovens and chandeliers.

And, if you don't like Walmart, buy them at the locally-owned hardware store. Around here (Vermont) they have 'em for 99 cents as well, thanks to utility company rebate programs, etc.

Unless you just like to piss your money away at (mega for profit) power companies.
posted by beagle at 11:18 AM on January 3, 2007


Just because they move the color temperature to a nicer place, doesn't mean they are as good as full spectrum bulbs.
posted by smackfu at 11:54 AM on January 3, 2007


... as good as full spectrum bulbs.

Kind of a red herring. Most people aren't rejecting these in favor of full-spectrum incandescents -- they're rejecting them in favor of five-for-a-dollar incandescents, and claiming that CFs are unacceptable by comparison.
posted by lodurr at 12:08 PM on January 3, 2007


the solar system currently being installed at Google headquarters in California

Well, I'll be damned. A private solar system. What won't those Google people do next?
posted by Sparx at 12:45 PM on January 3, 2007


A typical incandescent bulb is hardly full spectrum. According to this site (I know, Mercola), even most so called incandescent full spectrum bulbs are not full spectrum. In any event, I agree that the regular cooler flourescents are not entirely natural in color.
posted by caddis at 1:45 PM on January 3, 2007


When you add together all of Wal-Mart's recent "crunchy" initiatives - organic produce, cfl's, solar installations - Walmart does seem to be heading in the right direction, EVEN if you factor in the significant grey areas (weak overseas standards, mercury, ulterior pr motives, you're still buying from the evil Walmart, etc). This raises the question, is there ever a point at which a company that has done a tremendous amount of bad things can actually redeem itself to the point where caring consumers can justify giving them their business? McDonald's might be a similar case study...
posted by ericbop at 1:48 PM on January 3, 2007


Well, except for that job, of course, and maybe selling something on eBay, but that's not profit, right? We're not like those nasty, evil capitalists, right? Right??

Except, of course, for the fact that neither working at a job nor selling one's personal property makes one a capitalist, since neither of these involves using accumulated wealth to produce more wealth. Those socialists you seem to hate so much could probably tell you that a capitalist is one who controls the means of production in order to extract surplus value from the labor of others. By definition, most people don't qualify.

You're calling people "infantile" in their economics, yet you're trying to convince people that WAL*MART is in the same league as people working for a living or selling their extra beanie babies on Ebay? Come on. Sure, those who are upset about corporate profit might do better to use a less ambiguous term to describe it (like, for instance, surplus value, since that term clearly doesn't apply to the $2.50 one might make on selling off one's beanie baby). That said, suggesting that "profit is profit" when you're comparing the working class and the Waltons is hugely disingenuous.
posted by vorfeed at 1:58 PM on January 3, 2007


... as good as full spectrum bulbs.

Kind of a red herring. Most people aren't rejecting these in favor of full-spectrum incandescents -- they're rejecting them in favor of five-for-a-dollar incandescents, and claiming that CFs are unacceptable by comparison.


My photosensitivity and I would like to state for the record that we are, in fact, using full-spectrum lighting and saying that nothing else will do. I'd install a damn light box in every room in my home if I had the money to do so.

Fluorescents are really pretty nasty on the head for anyone with light sensitivity. Save the world! Make the epileptics cry!
posted by grapefruitmoon at 2:26 PM on January 3, 2007


Except, of course, for the fact that neither working at a job nor selling one's personal property makes one a capitalist

I didn't say they did. I said they were done to make money, which makes us like the capitalists, who also try to make money. I don't think it's evil to want to make money (though too much attachment to money can have bad effects on people), and I think it's childish to attack the whole idea of making a profit. Yes, people can go overboard and hurt other people in the quest for profit, just as they can in the quest for love, food, and other goodies; that's a fact about human nature, not about profit. And yes, I've read Marx and I know about "surplus value," thank you, and I think history has proven conclusively that his economic theory was nonsense. The profit motive is the only thing that makes economies work (combined, obviously, with safeguards to keep profit-seekers from causing too much havoc). But if you're a Marxist, I know better than to debate this stuff with you, any more than I debate Freud with Freudians. People are so touchy about their religions...
posted by languagehat at 2:34 PM on January 3, 2007


I really don't know why people like LED lights. They're not that much more efficient than CFL, they cost a fortune, they're unavailable in any decent output, and I've yet to see one that doesn't completely desaturate anything it lights.

They make acceptable flashlights, but I still find myself switching them from LED mode to incandescent mode whenever I want to see in color.

CFLs I like a lot better; they have a tolerable color output, well worth the power savings. Their inability to be used with a dimmer switch will keep me from ever totally switching over, but for any light I don't dim, they're great.
posted by Mitrovarr at 2:50 PM on January 3, 2007


I didn't say they did. I said they were done to make money, which makes us like the capitalists, who also try to make money.

Like I said above, this comparison is disingenuous. Yes, these things are done to make money, and capitalists also make money, but the latter make money in a fundamentally different way and on a totally different scale. So yes, working for a living makes one "like" a capitalist, in the same way that breathing makes one "like" a capitalist. That is to say, in a way that has absolutely nothing to do with being capitalistic.

And yes, I've read Marx and I know about "surplus value," thank you

If you've read Marx, then you should know that his problem was not with profit per se, or with owning stuff, or with selling that stuff, but with exploiting people's labor. People who sell their property on Ebay and work for a living don't do this, so they are NOT "like" capitalists in this particularly important way.

When people complain about profit, they don't mean the money they took home as a paycheck, or the money they made by re-selling something they bought. Marxism being "nonsense" or not, people do make a natural distinction between profit made on the backs of others and profit made of their own labor, and I suspect that you know very well which one people mean when they complain. Saying something like "oh, but you have a job and you make money so you're like a capitalist" does not even address the complaint being made, much less disprove its validity.

The profit motive is the only thing that makes economies work

Over most of human history, economies were based on subsistence farming and barter, neither of which have to do with profit, and yet humans continued to survive, thrive, and organize. Clearly, the profit motive is not "the only thing that makes economies work". But hey, don't let me stop you from crowning What Is as What Must Be. You're certainly not the first to do it, nor will you be the last.
posted by vorfeed at 3:33 PM on January 3, 2007


Sigh... "exploiting people's labor" is a fancy, biased way of saying "paying people for their labor." And by "making economies work" I mean "making modern economies work in ways that enable people to have what modern people consider a decent lifestyle." If you want to go back to a hunting-and-gathering lifestyle, be my guest, but the vast majority of people don't. And yes, I'm aware that many people don't have a decent lifestyle in today's capitalist economies, but a lot more of them do than did in the "planned economies" socialism thought were the answer. There is no one answer, there are only attempts and approximations. As always, the idea of the perfect is the enemy of real, achievable improvement. (I'm reading about the Russian revolutions these days, so this is particularly fresh in my mind.) But hey, don't let me stop you from crowning What I Wish the World Were Like as What Must Be. You're certainly not the first to do it, nor will you be the last.
posted by languagehat at 3:42 PM on January 3, 2007


You left out some words, here: "exploiting people's labor" is a fancy, biased way of saying "paying people less than their labor is worth for their labor." If people were paid the full value of their labor, there'd be no exploitation, and I wouldn't be here arguing with you. For someone who has read Marx, you persist in framing things in an awfully... wait for it... "fancy, biased way". Up to and including redefining simple words like "economy" and "work".

But hey, don't let me stop you from crowning What I Wish the World Were Like as What Must Be.

ooo, that'd be a burn, except that I never made any sweeping statements about how "the only thing that works is Y". Let's play it back, now. 2:34 PM: "The profit motive is the only thing that makes economies work." 3:42 PM: "There is no one answer, there are only attempts and approximations." I must tell you, there is great beauty in both the symmetry of these numbers and the total contradiction of these statements. Tell me, are you still going to hold that the profit motive is the only thing that can "make modern economies work in ways that enable people to have what modern people consider a decent lifestyle", or are you willing to stop lecturing me on how "there is no one answer"? Because, you see, it seems to me that you're claiming that the profit motive IS the one answer.

And considering that I've never said (nor do I believe) that Marxism is the whole of the answer, I think you've done a better job of disproving your own argument than mine.
posted by vorfeed at 4:04 PM on January 3, 2007


I should add that I understand the appeal of Marxism; I half-believed it myself around 1970 or thereabouts. I remember the excitement of reading the Communist Manifesto and working through the first volume of Capital and thinking "This guy makes a lot of sense!" But then I actually listened to the guys I used to routinely mock as reactionaries, the economists of the Mises school who pointed out that planned economies were failures because only markets provide the information needed to make economies work (in the above sense), and I looked around and lo, it was true. So all respect to leftie ideals, but ideals have to be grounded in reality.
posted by languagehat at 4:05 PM on January 3, 2007


The interesting thing about this is not that Walmart is planning to make a profit (duh!), but that it seems that only Walmart has the leverage to make the bulb companies take CFL seriously

Walmart is doing this really for two reasons: 1) increase the number of customers coming to the store, and 2) get monopsony power over yet another high volume/low margin product, in this case compact fluourescent bulbs.


Breaking the Chain : The antitrust case against Wal-Mart
posted by Huplescat at 4:15 PM on January 3, 2007


...planned economies were failures...

So.... like the US economy? Or maybe you mean the Cuban economy?
posted by eparchos at 4:29 PM on January 3, 2007


A typical incandescent bulb is hardly full spectrum.

It is. An incandescent bulb is a pretty good model of a black body at 2800K radiating light. Sunlight is the same thing, but at a higher temperature -- about 5500K, depending on the time of day. The higher temperature shifts the peak a bit, and provides much more blue light.

CFL, Metal Halides, LEDs and the like do not resemble black body radiators in any way shape or form. Low pressure sodium lights don't even pretend. Fluorescents have a very strong spike at about 430 and 520nm (blue and green, respectively) from the mercury vapor. Most LEDs are effectivly monochromatic. White LEDs are a very strong blue line with an orange-red phosphor glow.
posted by eriko at 4:43 PM on January 3, 2007


The bulbs I hear buzzing are at my mum's house; I don't doubt that they're the cheapest she can get. I can't hear a mosquito buzz anymore so these bulbs must be damned loud. I don't know if she can hear them, but in any case, better her than me.
posted by deborah at 4:58 PM on January 3, 2007


ericbop says: This raises the question, is there ever a point at which a company that has done a tremendous amount of bad things can actually redeem itself to the point where caring consumers can justify giving them their business?

Well, Wal-Mart's new employee scheduling plan can't help.
posted by JackFlash at 5:09 PM on January 3, 2007


paying people less than their labor is worth for their labor

Their labor is worth what people are willing to pay them for it. There is no other meaning to "worth" in an economic context. You can go out in your back yard and dig holes and fill them up again all day long, but if nobody's willing to pay you for it, that labor is worth nothing.

that'd be a burn, except that I never made any sweeping statements

So what do you believe? It's kind of hard to argue with somebody who won't take a stand except that WalMart is bad (and yes, I think we can all agree on that).
posted by languagehat at 5:12 PM on January 3, 2007


You left out some words, here: "exploiting people's labor" is a fancy, biased way of saying "paying people less than their labor is worth for their labor." If people were paid the full value of their labor, there'd be no exploitation, and I wouldn't be here arguing with you.

If people were paid the "full value" of their labor (an absurd concept, since value is identified by what others will trade for it), there would be no incentive to hire them in the first place. That's not exploitation, it's investment, and no different than investment in non-human capital (land, resources, etc).
posted by me & my monkey at 5:43 PM on January 3, 2007


That's not exploitation, it's investment, and no different than investment in non-human capital (land, resources, etc).

And the glaring assumption here is that we have to have a heirarchical economy. Thanks for that.
posted by eparchos at 5:47 PM on January 3, 2007


You say assumption, I say observation. Humans seem to arrange themselves in hierarchical systems, generally.
posted by me & my monkey at 5:55 PM on January 3, 2007


You say assumption, I say observation. Humans seem to arrange themselves in hierarchical systems, generally.

Oh! Then you should buy my car for $10,000 since it's worth $5,000 and I'm probably bigger than you.
posted by eparchos at 6:34 PM on January 3, 2007


If you've read Marx, then you should know that his problem was not with profit per se,

... but with the fact that he didn't have a grasp on reality?

Communism. Seriously? Seriously?
posted by frogan at 6:45 PM on January 3, 2007


... but with the fact that he didn't have a grasp on reality?

Funny you should mention that, since Marx is considered a very important economist.
Check out this link from "The Economist"

"The communism of Eastern Europe and the Soviet Union was a perversion of his thought. What happened in those benighted lands would have appalled Marx as much as it appals us. It has no bearing on the validity of his ideas."

Another interesting link...

"[Marx's] account of the reasons for the survival and prosperity of capitalism has never been bettered."

So yes, communism, seriously.
posted by eparchos at 7:04 PM on January 3, 2007


*That should an "And yes, communism, seriously." Not "So"
posted by eparchos at 7:06 PM on January 3, 2007


Marx is considered a very important economist.

Ivory-tower academics don't count.

Your CIA links are Laos, China, Cuba and Vietnam. Not exactly the Fearsome Foursome, there.

You realize all four of those countries are currently in the process of awakening from their decades-long nightmares of repression and brutal human rights records, and all four are embracing capitalism as fast as they can?

So I see you and Marx have something in common regarding a grasp on reality.

Have fun, now.
posted by frogan at 7:24 PM on January 3, 2007


Their labor is worth what people are willing to pay them for it.

If labor is worth only what people are willing to pay for it, then why would anyone pay for someone else's labor at all? Clearly, nobody would pay for a valueless thing, right? Hint: capitalists buy labor because they can sell the fruits of that labor for a profit, i.e. additional value. That means that labor has two kinds of value: what someone is willing to pay for it, and what that same someone can then resell it for. The second value is what I mean by "the full value of one's labor". The difference between the two is where the capitalist makes his money.

But then, you know full well that labor is not "worth only what someone will pay for it" -- any capitalist worth his salt would laugh and laugh at the idea, because he spends much of his time working out exactly what his workers' labor is worth, and exactly what smaller amount he should pay them to ensure his preferred profit margin.

So what do you believe? It's kind of hard to argue with somebody who won't take a stand except that WalMart is bad (and yes, I think we can all agree on that).

I believe that the capitalist model has redefined important concepts like "progress" and "worth" in sole terms of capital and profit, thus redirecting our social focus into a myopic cycle of money-shifting and junk-producing rather than the production of true worth. I also believe that the problems Marx originally pointed out in capitalism (massive central accumulation of wealth and the redefinition/degradation of human life in terms of capital) are only getting worse, as he originally predicted they would, and that continuing to ignore them is likely to bring about the end of your much-vaunted "modern economies". In short, I believe that money ought to function as a means, not an end.
posted by vorfeed at 7:28 PM on January 3, 2007



Ivory-tower academics don't count.


When we're discussing Marx, academics don't count... hmmm.


You realize all four of those countries are currently in the process of awakening from their decades-long nightmares of repression and brutal human rights records, and all four are embracing capitalism as fast as they can?


No, no, I don't realize that. And neither does anybody else who studies those countries.


So I see you and Marx have something in common regarding a grasp on reality.


Thank you.
posted by eparchos at 7:28 PM on January 3, 2007


Oh, frogan, if you would choose to make any factual arguments, it might help your case. Going "Haha Communism tee hee lololol" doesn't really do anything.
Neither does "Oh, those stupid academics! What do they know!"
posted by eparchos at 7:31 PM on January 3, 2007


You know, I may have made a mistake. The only acceptable response to rah-rah Communists is to just point and laugh.
posted by frogan at 9:07 PM on January 3, 2007


You know, I may have made a mistake. The only acceptable response to rah-rah Communists is to just point and laugh.

I suppose that would be easier than actual critical thought or coherent arguments.
posted by eparchos at 9:37 PM on January 3, 2007


Still pointing. Still laughing.
posted by frogan at 11:08 PM on January 3, 2007


Still pointing. Still laughing. Still an ignorant douchebag. Lalalalala I can'thearyou!

Fixed that for you, kitten.
Now run along while the grownups talk.
posted by eparchos at 11:28 PM on January 3, 2007


Wow. This thread went six ways to Sunday. I was kinda hoping it would lead to either eriko or I flaming out on the topic of what lamp style was better, but somehow it became a discussion of economics; but really, let's be honest, when comparing LED vs Sulfur lights and Marxian theory, the people know what is really important.

Economic theories make peoples head's hurt. LED and/ or sulfur lights lead the way and make everyone's life a better place.

/econ-losers vs engineering gods FTW!
posted by quin at 11:47 PM on January 3, 2007


grapefruitmoon: Fluorescents are really pretty nasty on the head for anyone with light sensitivity. Save the world! Make the epileptics cry!

Again, this is demonstrably false. Compact Flourescents are no worse than most incandescents. And many "full-spectrum" products use fluorescent light technology.

The "epileptics" reference is probably an allusion to the fact that fluorescents "flicker". Again, irrelevant: The flicker-rate of modern CFs is so high that it's just about impossible to conceive of it being perceptable. The older ballasts flickered at 40Hz; that's perceptible.
posted by lodurr at 3:14 AM on January 4, 2007


Interesting stuff, everybody. I wish that the level of debate regarding the nature of capitalism and communism were as high as that regarding the nature of lighting options. It is not often that I witness a discussion on the qualities of socialist vs. capitalist economies that has participants of an equal level of knowledge and clarity.
posted by asok at 7:06 AM on January 4, 2007


I have been using energy-saving (CFL) bulbs for the past 10 years, indeed one of my bulbs is still working after 12 years. It is a 100W output Philips bulb that uses 22W equivalent. It is very bright and has a high colour temperature.

I have taken advantage of Ikea's cheap CFL bulbs, but as replacement only occurs once every few years I don't have to worry about that too much. Once you make the change to CFLs you don't have to think about it any more.

How many environmentalists does it take to change a lightbulb?

Come back next year or the year after.

I have CFLs wherever a bulb is in use for time periods of 10 mins or more. I also have CFL 'halogens' replacing downlights where possible. The main problem with them is that they need a different voltage converter to the usual halogens, so cannot be swapped without chaning the fitting. There is a buzz from one of the VCs, but as I was an early adopter I have to suck that up. All the ones I have bought in the past three years have been fine.

Flourescent tubes go to the correct bin at the municipal tip, as do batteries, mobile phones, fridges, televisions, wood, metal and glass. Hopefully they will be broken down and recycled responsibly, although one does have to keep an eye on the local council who have been known to be a bit criminal remiss in checking on the credentials of the recycling companies.
posted by asok at 7:37 AM on January 4, 2007


capitalists buy labor because they can sell the fruits of that labor for a profit, i.e. additional value. That means that labor has two kinds of value: what someone is willing to pay for it, and what that same someone can then resell it for. The second value is what I mean by "the full value of one's labor". The difference between the two is where the capitalist makes his money.

I admire your ability to recite the Credo. Your ability to think about economics is another matter. So tell me, when Jim and I settle on a price of $50 to fix something that's gone wrong in the downstairs bathroom, and Jim's happy to take it and I'm happy to pay it, who exactly is exploiting whom?

But there I go, violating my vow not to argue with religious fanatics.
posted by languagehat at 8:51 AM on January 4, 2007


But there I go, violating my vow not to argue with religious fanatics.

That tends to imply that belief in the primacy of Economics is not a type of fanaticism in its own right...

All of this discussion is predicated on the idea that the best or most comprehensive way to understand human social behavior is through economics. I seldom hear that idea seriously challenged -- and yet, it seems to me so clearly inadequate to explain things like love, admiration, hate, anger, fear, religion, enjoyment of fine wine, and so one.
posted by lodurr at 9:23 AM on January 4, 2007


I totally agree with you. But if people are going to discuss economics (which is not the be-all and end-all, but is an interesting and important subject) they should bring more to the table than warmed-over paraphrases of a 19th-century theorist, just as people who talk about love should have some grasp of what it is. For me, love trumps economics any day.
posted by languagehat at 9:52 AM on January 4, 2007


So tell me, when Jim and I settle on a price of $50 to fix something that's gone wrong in the downstairs bathroom, and Jim's happy to take it and I'm happy to pay it, who exactly is exploiting whom?

Nobody, as THAT'S NOT CAPITALISM. Again, in this case you are not using Jim's labor to make more money than you're paying Jim, which you'd have to do to qualify as a capitalist. This example is much the same as your Ebay example, in that it is essentially barter using money as a standard of exchange. If work were always fair like this, I'd have no problem with it, but you know very well that it is NOT like this for the vast majority of people in the country -- people who are employed by capitalists for either hourly or salaried wage -- so what's with the cherry-picked examples? Hell, even most of the repairmen in this country have a boss who tells them how much to charge and then takes most of it!

Whatever, I'm finished here. You're not interested in honest debate, as you've already said several times, so I might as well not waste my time. And as for your last comment, what have you brought to the table? Oh, yeah: there is no one answer (except profit, which is the only answer), and if we returned to the way things were before capitalism, that would be... um... hunter-gatherering. Way to demonstrate your own grasp of logic, much less economics.
posted by vorfeed at 10:04 AM on January 4, 2007


*hunter-gathering, sorry for the typo
posted by vorfeed at 10:32 AM on January 4, 2007


Again, this is demonstrably false. Compact Flourescents are no worse than most incandescents. And many "full-spectrum" products use fluorescent light technology.

The "epileptics" reference is probably an allusion to the fact that fluorescents "flicker". Again, irrelevant: The flicker-rate of modern CFs is so high that it's just about impossible to conceive of it being perceptable. The older ballasts flickered at 40Hz; that's perceptible.


Um. The "epileptics" reference is an allusion to the fact that I have epilepsy. And the fact that fluorescents "flickering" is enough to make me seriously ill to the point where there are some stores/other public places where I simply can not enter because I know that if I do, I will leave feeling dizzy, nauseous, and generally awful.

It doesn't matter if your eyes can perceive the flickering, your brain knows it's there. You are obviously not photosensitive itself, which is great for you, but don't try and tell me that my health issues are "demonstrably false." There may not be a great deal of science behind it, but I know that my head is happiest with full-spectrum lighting.
posted by grapefruitmoon at 10:50 AM on January 4, 2007


If 'your brain' can literally perceive the flicker at compact fluorescent frequencies, then you're a biological miracle. The human eye simply doesn't work that fast. It's ions in gel, after all -- not current in a wire.

What is conceivable is that you're perceiving beat-frequencies -- for example, between the scan frequency of a CRT or a television and a flourescent bulb. And of course, if you're looking at an old-school conventional fluorescent fixure that cycles at 60Hz, that's just within the perceptible range without beat frequencies.
posted by lodurr at 12:01 PM on January 4, 2007


Fixed that for you, kitten.
Now run along while the grownups talk.


Still pointing and laughing at the silly communist dork without a single atom of perspective.
posted by frogan at 4:54 PM on January 4, 2007


Just once I'd like to have a conversation about lightbulbs that doesn't turn into a goddamn catfight over communism.
posted by nanojath at 12:14 AM on January 6, 2007


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