Monday, June 06, 2011
A little over a week ago, I commented on an article in the New York Times that made the point that incandescent bulbs had not been banned under environmentalist legislation signed by President Bush. Specifically, after portraying various people who are stockpiling incandescent bulbs as worrying about nothing, the article stated:
"My electrician said they were being phased out," he said. "If he's wrong, I'm going to kill him."My comment on this was, "I cannot help but wonder whether federal efficiency standards won't amount to a phase-out, anyway."
As it happens, Mr. Henault's electrician is wrong.
The law does not ban the use or manufacture of all incandescent bulbs, nor does it mandate the use of compact fluorescent ones. It simply requires that companies make some of their incandescent bulbs work a bit better, meeting a series of rolling deadlines between 2012 and 2014.
This morning, I learned -- and from the Grey Lady herself, no less -- that I was completely right to be suspicious:
[T]hat's fortunate, because one day very soon, traditional incandescent bulbs won't be available in stores anymore. They're about to be effectively outlawed.And now, for the icing on the cake: In the very next paragraph, Andrew Rice has the gall to chide people via scare quotes who use the colloquialism, "light bulb ban!"
Conservatives like Rush Limbaugh have denounced the "light-bulb ban" -- actually, a new set of federal efficiency regulations that the traditional incandescent can't meet -- as a symbolic case of environmentalist overreaching...Rice's reasoning seems to go something along these lines: "You see, the law didn't actually call this a ban, so it isn't. And if people in the same lowbrow category as Rush Limbaugh can't even be bothered to say, 'energy standards that don't actually outlaw incandescents, but will make it impossible to manufacture incandescents that meet its requirements,' every time instead of 'ban,' then you know to ignore anything else they might have to say."
First, this babbling about the light bulb ban not really being a ban is a dishonest appeal to the vanity of readers who can't be bothered to examine whether the government should be dictating how we manufacture lighting -- but who will take great pride in "knowing" the difference between a ban and an effective ban. (Actually, they don't, because there is no essential difference.) Second, it is an attempt to undermine the confidence of people who call a spade a spade, by sowing doubt. ("Huh! I heard there was a ban, but I guess I was wrong.")
It is one thing to point out that someone ginning up controversy doesn't really know what the hell he is talking about. It is quite another to take an identification of an essential issue in a debate (i.e., whether we can freely produce incandescent bulbs) as "evidence" that one's opponent has disqualified himself from the debate.
Today: Corrected a typo.