Sunday, February 3, 2008

In Defense of Incandescent lightbulbs

There was an interesting piece in the online magazine this week taking congress to task for passing legislation that will effectively ban traditional incandescent light-bulbs by 2014 because they won't be able to meet electricity efficiency standards.  The author Ron Rosenbaum makes some very interesting points about the questionable environmental standards of the replacement CFL bulbs, such as their high mercury content.
However, I found his argument on simple beauty the most convincing.  Traditional light-bulbs give off a soft yellow glow that is very flattering to both people and objects.  Yes, they could just as easily be called heat bulbs as light bulbs and are massively inefficient, but I feel there must always be room in this world for aesthetics.
 One of renowned architect, Frank Gehry's most famous buildings is the Museum in Bilbao,  Spain.  (see link)  Some could argue that this is a massive waste of Titanium, but how can we calculate the value added to our lives?
In short, I am as much for energy conservation as anyone, yet I can also recognize the value in keeping traditional lighting.  As a photographer I know the different colors of light that are put out by different technologies.  Flourescent lights give off a blue glow, Tungsten lights green, and incandescent yellow.  All these glows can be color corrected in the printing process, but only one of them actually flatters the subject, incandescence. Before we condemn these bulbs to the ash heap of history let us pause to think about what we will be losing.

1 comment:

Candide said...

From an aesthetic standpoint, I think you may have a good point - we could certainly do more work in this area.

From a mercury standpoint, CFLs indeed require a management plan for end-of-use recycling of mercury. Nevertheless, based on average energy consumption during their lifetime there tends to be a net mercury reduction by lowering energy use and hence mercury emissions from coal-fired power plants.

I applaud Congress's passing of such legislation, and for those taking pictures I encourage them to stock up on a couple of spare incandescents until we develop a nicer light in the future.