Saturday, 1 September 2007

EU Conflicted over Low energy light ‘bulbs’

The EU is mandating Low energy light bulbs.

The EU also has an import tariff of up to 60% on Chinese manufactured Low energy light bulbs. Over 80% of these bulbs sold in the EU are not made in the EU. The Commission have just voted to extend that tariff for another 12 months.

Clearly free trade enthusiasts then…

So the EU it is not really keen on all low energy light bulbs then – just those manufactured within the EU.

Environmental group Worldwide Fund for Nature don’t like the tariff and would like to see sales of the bulbs increase despite the serious environmental threat from the mercury in them.

Curious that the EU bans the sale and repair of mercury barometers on the grounds that they contain mercury, not exactly known for their environmental impact - whilst at the same time promotes these bulbs, that if taken up in huge numbers will likely prove to be a dangerous source of mercury pollution when disposed of.


Ordovicius said...

I'm guessing that this tariff means that we'll have to pay more for our Chinese lightbulbs than otherwise. What's the point of havimg a huge economic bloc if us EU citizens still end up paying extra?

Phil A said...

Re: I'm guessing that this tariff means that we'll have to pay more for our Chinese light bulbs than otherwise. What's the point of having a huge economic bloc if us EU citizens still end up paying extra?

That’s exactly what it means; the tariff is a protectionist measure and can inflate the price up to 66%.

The point in this case is old-fashioned protectionism. Make cheap foreign (i.e. Non EU) products more expensive so that relatively expensive domestic (European made) products can compete with them. Also the tariff is effectively an import tax so that helps swell the EU coffers nicely as well.

Colin Campbell said...

Methinks the EU is just a protectionist cartel and speaks out of both sides of their anus on this issue. Utter bollocks. If the technology is pretty much the same and there are benefits to the environment by widespread implementation then the fat cat European manufacturers should be driven out of business pronto.

I am jesting a little. I used to do quite a bit of work with that large US Corporation with a lot of the technology. There wasn't much margin in the business, even manufacturing in Indonesia. No wonder our European friends need tarrifs.

Phil A said...

Colin, Being a protectionist cartel is certainly part of what the EU is all about. It is more-or-less built in. Look at the common agricultural policy. It is effectively designed to keep small French farmers in business against competition that would otherwise cause them to go out of business. That is unlikely to change.

The particular problem with the light bulbs, apart from the protectionism and the fact that the EU are trying to force them down our throats, is that, in practice, they do not save as much energy as touted - and they are a potential long term environmental threat because of the mercury they contain.

As I understand it compact fluorescent bulbs contain an average of 5 milligrams of mercury each. They will eventually all need to be disposed of - and they will probably end up in the trash and get broken.

Now Some 200 million light bulbs a year are sold in the UK alone - replace them all with CFLs and you could end up with about a Metric Ton of mercury being dumped in the UK every year.

Now on to the energy saving. The figures quoted are based around the power it takes to run a CFL against an incandescent bulb. Because of the way the CFLs are made they draw much more power when first turned on. They are most efficient when on all the time. Turn them on and off and the saving is not so good.

A secondary factor is that promoters of CFLs count the energy used in heat output by incandescent bulbs as wasted energy. In a domestic setting it is mostly not wasted but contributes to household heating. Slightly reducing the energy required for domestic heating. This contribution would have to be made up from domestic heating if the incandescent bulbs were replaced by CFLs.