2016-09-03 The Light Bulb Conspiracy – Not Really

There may be a Light Bulb Conspiracy, but it’s not what you think! First, let’s discuss the Light Bulb Conspiracy claim. They said that years ago, incandescent light bulbs lasted for 2500 hours, but now they last for only 1000 hours. They claim that this is a conspiracy to sell more products “by planned obsolescence.” We have to look at more than just the light bulb to find out the reality.

At one time in the past electricity costs were much less than they are now. At that time it made economic sense to sell a longer lasting incandescent light bulb, even though it used more electricity to make a given amount of light. But as the cost of electricity rose, the long life lights cost more in electricity consumption than the cost of the light bulb. Manufacturers increased light output and lights had a shorter lifespan. But now the consumer could use a 75 watt light instead of a 100 watt light, and save 25 percent on the electricity, which more than paid for the cost of the shorter lived light bulbs.

You may think, why would the electric company want the consumer to spend less money? That doesn’t make sense. But the local, state and federal governments mandated that utilities reduce consumption to reduce air pollution, toxic waste (coal ashes have mercury), and other reasons (dependence on foreign fuels, greenhouse gases, etc.).

These environmental concerns are also a reason for laws to develop renewable energy resources such as hydroelectric, geothermal, wind and solar power.

The incandescent light manufacturers have saved the consumer money by making more efficient (brighter) lights, at the cost of a shorter lifespan light. This cannot be called a conspiracy.

In the last few years – 2010 to 2015 – the sale of most incandescent light bulbs has been outlawed, so consumers now have to buy LED lights for most lighting. This has saved the consumer much more, since LED lights use less than 1/6th as much electricity. The LED lights cost more but quickly pay for themselves in electricity savings. And they can last much longer, 22 years or more if kept cool.

So the incandescent ‘light bulb conspiracy’ is no longer a concern. However, there may still be a conspiracy going on. The makers of these slickly produced hour-long conspiracy theory videos seem to have been well financed. The money may come from those who have an interest in selling more electricity. Electric utilities have trade associations that promote their agenda. Could they be involved in spreading these conspiracy myths? That may be difficult to prove.


The second part of this lengthy blog is here.

Update Sep 8 – I spent the whole hour watching the full length version of The Light Bulb Conspiracy, which is about ‘planned obsolescence’. They talk about light bulbs, but much of the program is about other consumer goods, such as women’s nylon hosiery. I have a huge amount of skepticism about what they say.

Here’s an example. Yesterday I saw a Toyota Corolla in a parking lot, and I drove around and looked at it from all sides. It was old, probably from the ’70s, and brought back many memories. This was the car that stole the car sales away from the U.S. car makers. The Japanese company just took the business away from GM, Ford and Chrysler by giving the consumer a better, higher quality car. I thought about the times when I saw the US cars fall apart after a few years due to plastic parts, glued on with glue that would come loose over time. The little Corollas were well made and cheap, and cheap on fuel, too.

I think that ‘planned obsolescence’ would not be able to stand up to competition for the consumer’s money; the consumers would vote with their feet and choose another product. Advertising has some influence. But then so do the tests of products done by Consumer Reports, a well-known testing company.

Assuming these external forces continue, the only way to cheat the consumer would be to form a cartel or trust where the manufacturers conspired to fix prices and cheat the consumers. This is against the law, of course. Companies have been tried and convicted of doing this.

Back to the light bulb. I’m going to continue this on my next blog.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

© RustyBolt.Info/wordpress