In the shadow of the bulbs.

Like many, many others, I’ve looked to the compact fluorescent lamp as a sort of slam dunk for global warming. Here’s a technology that reduces energy consumption by 75%–reducing greenhouse gas emissions and saving people money all in a matter of 18 seconds.

Climate Change is just a hugely complex environmental, political, scientific, and technological challenge. And so when a no-brainer like the CFL comes along, it’s no surprise that governments are banning regular incandescent light bulbs in its favor, huge retailers are peddling it, environmental groups and community efforts have been born from it.

All that said, it shouldn’t be surprising then that the twisted little thing has its detractors. Some are those who have residual memories of the flickering, harsh compacts that first hit the market a decade ago. But there are others who are jumping on issues with CFLs precisely because they are the things most heavily promoted as a means to get everyday people engaged in the climate crisis. Enter CNN’s Glenn Beck…

Just to get a sense of perspective, here are a couple of choice nuggets from our pal Glenn, about a range of topics:

  • He called President Jimmy Carter a “waste of skin,” Mexican immigrants “dirt bags,” Katrina victims “scumbags,” and Cindy Sheehan (a war opposition leader who lost her son in Iraq) a “prostitute”
  • He asked the first Muslim elected to Congress, Rep. Keith Ellison (D-MN) to “prove to me that you are not working with our enemies”
  • He’s referred to Hillary Clinton as the anti-christ and a “stereotypical bitch”

Now, keep in mind that Glenn hasn’t just found a home on CNN Headline News… he’s been a regular contributor on Good Morning America. Why these mainstream media outlets feel the need to hire people like Glenn is beyond me, but that’s a whole other subject.

Glenn’s current cause celeb is to deny global warming. Well, specifically the effort to address human caused climate change. His techniques? Mocking those trying to do something about the issue… grandstanding… citing misleading sources… inviting on to his show climate change deniers. You name it.

In response to the City of San Francisco’s ban on plastic bags, Beck called on his radio listeners to send their plastic shopping bags to Mayor Gavin Newsom:

You know what I’d like to do . . . hey Stu . . . I’d like to raise plastic bags for San Francisco. I think that they’re going to have a shortage of plastic bags. I would like to raise plastic bags for San Francisco and then send them to Gavin Newsom. We’ll ship them right to him. You send me your plastic bags and then I’ll ship them right to Gavin Newsom and the city of San Francisco. Here’s the great thing – because then they can use them – or they’ll have to dispose of them there in San Francisco, and that would make me happy.

Last night, CNN aired a Glenn Beck special, “Exposed: The Climate of Fear” for which he himself said: “There is no balance to the special. I want you to know right up front. I am not saying that this is the end all truth.” (I tivo’d it but haven’t had the stomach to watch yet.

Beck’s favorite target? Al Gore. Surprising, no? A couple of days ago, Glenny compared Al Gore’s efforts to address global warming to Hitler’s extermination of Jews. Yes, you heard my right.

“Al Gore’s not going to be rounding up Jews and exterminating them. It is the same tactic, however. The goal is different. The goal is globalization. The goal is global carbon tax. The goal is the United Nations running the world. That is the goal. Back in the 1930s, the goal was get rid of all of the Jews and have one global government.” …

“You got to have an enemy to fight. And when you have an enemy to fight, then you can unite the entire world behind you, and you seize power. That was Hitler’s plan. His enemy: the Jew. Al Gore’s enemy, the U.N.’s enemy: global warming.” …

“Then you get the scientists — eugenics. You get the scientists — global warming. Then you have to discredit the scientists who say, ‘That’s not right.’ And you must silence all dissenting voices. That’s what Hitler did.”

So how does this all relate to CFLs? Well, recently Beck had Steven Milloy on as a guest of his CNN program to talk about global warming. Steven Milloy runs the site (not going to give this guy ad revenue with a link, sorry), a scholar with the libertarian Cato Institute and an expert (sic!) with the Competitive Enterprise Insitute. He’s personally received thousands from oil companies and until recently CEI had received large sums from the likes of Exxon-Mobil to cast doubt on global warming science. Which is why this opening exchange is so laughably–and brazenly–a lie:

Steve, first of all, are you in bed with big oil? And if so, how good in bed are they?

STEVEN MILLOY, JUNKSCIENCE.COM: Not in bed with anyone, just trying to do the right thing on climate change.

Milloy then proceeds to share the story of Brandy Bridges [login required] who broke a CFL when she tried to replace an incandescent light bulb with it.

This poor woman, Brandy Bridges, was switching out her incandescent bulbs and into compact fluorescent light bulbs, CFLs, because they`re going to help save us from global warming, and she accidentally dropped the bulb that she was replacing in her daughter`s bedroom.

Now, she knew that there was something odd about the bulb. She knew they might be somewhat more dangerous, so she called Home Depot to find out what to do. Well, they told her to call the poison control center. Poison control center told her to call the Maine Department of Environmental Protection. The Maine Department of Environmental Protection sent a specialist out to her house.

BECK: Now, wait, wait, this has got to be an urban legend. This is true? The EPA came to help clean up a light bulb?

MILLOY: Oh, this is not the end of it. OK, so the Maine EPA tells her that, well, you need to have a specialist come out here and clean this up. So she found a specialist to come out and give her an estimate: $2,000 to clean up a light bulb. The specialist found that the level of mercury in her daughter`s bedroom was six times as high as the Maine standard for being safe.

BECK: Holy cow.

MILLOY: So now this woman is trying to put together the financing to clean up, because she…

BECK: I sweep it up into a little dust bin and bury it in my neighbor`s backyard, because they`re a hippy freak. That`s what I do.

MILLOY: Yes, all because she wanted to save $5 a year in electric bills.

BECK: Oh, my god. You know, the problem is the solutions sometimes make things worse. We`ve done this with additives to gasoline. We did it with the CFCs. We fixed the ozone layer, but haven`t we made greenhouse gases, like, 10,000 times worse?

MILLOY: Oh, yes. We do this all the time, because we just fall for environmentalist alarmism. You had a great example in the intro with the plankton. You know, there are innumerable examples like this.

BECK: I`ve got to tell you, that one spooks me. Thanks a lot, Steve.

Now here’s the thing: So much of what these deniers spew are lies. But this isn’t. This story gets to a real concern: Compact fluorescents aren’t the silver bullet we’d genuinely like to have. The issue is not that they are imperfect. Every product is, as is every solution to every problem. The danger here is that we proponents of CFLs as one (small but significant) solution to climate change aren’t out ahead of the problems associated with their use. What problems? Disposal, clean up and dimmables are three big ones of which I’m aware. I’ll speak more of these in specific terms later.

Am I questioning their utility in the fight against global warming? No. Am I afraid of deceivers like Glenn Beck? Admittedly, a little… if only because we have so little time left to address this issue that anyone with a big bullhorn like CNN is a roadblock. But that’s a cost I gladly accept as a price for freedom of speech. Where I get genuinely concerned is when guys like this have genuine ammo to fire. Let’s deal with this.


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