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Dim future in store for Edison’s lightbulb

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In our shared human existence, few things unfailingly provide us all equal comfort. Indeed, the lingering smell of freshly baked bread, a hand-written postcard intended specifically for us (no matter if sent by our excessively chatty Aunt Mildred), or the warm glow effused from our lamp when we settle into our favorite read all give us a unifying cozy solace.

Woefully, I must inform you that the hindmost delight has an impending end. Thomas Edison’s incandescent light bulb, which has reigned as the faithful provider of natural light for the past 130 years, is approaching its federally mandated retirement.

California, America’s designated eco-state, is expected to be the first state to cease production of Edison’s bulbs in accordance with the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007. In a similar spirit, Ikea, ever the symbol of budget-friendly modernity, halted the sale of incandescents on Jan. 4 — the first major United States retailer to do so.

Rewinding to 2007, President George W. Bush signed the Energy Independence and Security Act that legislated a higher lumens per watt standard, a measure of luminous efficacy. Yet, rather than prohibiting the purchase of comparatively inefficient incandescent light bulbs, the EISA only illegalized their manufacture. This detail presents a loophole, allowing cunning consumers to ship incandescents from abroad. A slew of countries, including Australia, the Philippines and Cuba, have already greenified their light usage. Most notably, the European Union began phasing out inefficient bulbs in 2009, after which the incandescent ban movement became decidedly en vogue. The Obama-backed EISA requires that all other states must follow in California’s progressive footsteps by 2012. Notwithstanding the potential loss of aesthetics, this act has been ratified for good reason.

The American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy claims that the direct outcome of the legislation will be an emissions reduction of 50.7 million metric tons of CO2 by 2030 and perhaps more immediately memorable will save consumers $2.74 billion. Despite these easily apparent benefits, EISA, admittedly, affects my rationale less and my disposition more. The fluorescence above my head in the Science and Engineering Library at Ohio State makes the future seem ironically dreary. Personally, studying in this neon-esque obscene brightness is more reminiscent of a stark laboratory than a place conducive to inspired thought — one that the Dickensian subtle glow of incandescents merrily provides.

We have persistently depended on Edison’s endearingly simple design (heating a metal filament until it glows) for more than two centuries, a high feat for a 19th century invention. Its presence has even infiltrated our cartoons — the quintessential symbol of an idea.

Before replacing all the light bulbs of Mickey’s eureka moments with the squiggly bulb shape of a fluorescent, let us ensure that the incandescent’s memory (pardon this) burns bright. And thus, in gesture of a cheery send-off, I, for one, will be at Lowe’s hoarding these dear bulbs. And unless you do the same, you will soon find yourself in a competitive auction bid on eBay, in quest for incandescents — the next vintage novelty.

 

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