Friday, July 31, 2009

Compact Fluorescent Lamps -what are the real costs?

Jack, thanks for Your informative article, Compact Fluorescent Lamp.

Here’s a CFL concern I’ve been thinking about but really haven’t seen addressed elsewhere…

When I flip a wall switch at home to turn on one or more CFLs, I often hear a pretty large arc in the switch: “snap!”. It’s not just one switch, this happens on different circuits. I suspect that CFLs perhaps have a rather high inrush current, and this may cause accelerated wear of switch contacts. Time will tell whether a few years down the road people will begin to discover that light switches are failing prematurely and need to be replaced. Bad switch contacts can pose a fire hazard, but many people may never recognize such a problem or its risk. Among those who do, many may never decide to seek repairs.

CFLs offer attractive savings in energy use to the consumer, but I don’t see that the disadvantages of CFLs are being addressed seriously in the public square.

It would be good to see more evaluation and discussion of these CFL concerns:

  • How much health risk does accidental CFL breakage pose to consumers?
  • At a national and global level how much mercury is projected to be released into the environment through CFL disposal? How might we manage CFL disposal to minimize this environmental damage?
  • What is the risk of fire and smoke damage due to failure and abnormal overheating of CFLs?
  • How does the rate of catastrophic failure compare between CFLs and incandescent bulbs?
  • How do CFLs impact the reliability of electrical switches?
  • How can CLF manufacturers and users address the unpleasant color rendering of many CFLs in home environments?
  • Do CFLs pose a risk of UV damage to fabrics, home, and office furnishings?
  • How do all these risks impact the long term economic, environmental, and health costs of CFLs?
  • How will widespread adoption of CFLs impact power generation and distribution (-an issue raised in Your report)?

Thanks again for Your report, which is a helpful contribution to this discussion.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Big blobs of mystery goo floating off Alaska coast

Big blobs of mystery goo floating off Alaska coast - McClatchy

Something big and strange is floating through the Chukchi Sea between Wainwright and Barrow.

Hunters from Wainwright first started noticing the stuff sometime probably early last week. It's thick and dark and "gooey" and is drifting for miles in the cold Arctic waters, according to Gordon Brower with the North Slope Borough's Planning and Community Services Department.

I think I know what it is. The scientific term is "mucosa terrestrium", but it's basically the chewy nougat leaking from the outer mantle of the earth through a bad gasket, and floating to the surface of the crust. This happens only every few hundred million years or so, but when it does it's a bit of a problem. The leak will worsen until the gasket is replaced, and if it's neglected too long then it will eventually cover most of the earth's marine surface. The last time this happened the dinosaurs couldn't agree on how to finance the repairs, and their inaction cost them their lives.

A project of this size can be tackled only by the federal government. Nancy Pelosi, please queue this up as justification for a second or third stimulus package.

Monday, July 06, 2009

Independence Day: why do we celebrate?

U.S. independence from England came at a high price, as did uniting the colonies into one nation. The HBO mini-series "John Adams", based on David McCullough's biography, is a fascinating insight into the life and times of one of the key founding fathers.

We live in momentous times. It's important to be clear about what's important, and what was important to those who devoted their lives to founding our nation.

McCullough's book is excellent. So is the HBO mini-series.

John Adams mini-series