Wednesday, April 02, 2008

Lights on 

Increasingly politicians are using new media to communicate with their constituents and other supporters. Rep. Michele Bachmann has put up a blog on the Republican Study Committee's site to explain her position on CF lights. It's interesting because it turns the precautionary principle on its head. Rather than prevent a new product coming onto the market until one could absolutely prove its safety, it requires the GAO to show that a ban on the incandescent light bulb would

1.) Lead to lower costs for consumers

2.) Lead to a reduced carbon footprint

3.) Not lead to a health risk for consumers, particularly those in vulnerable populations, like those in nursing homes, day care centers, hospitals, and schools.

We've written about the issue here before, in terms of its warping of peak demand, and the Minnesota Free Market Institute re-released an editorial from May 2007 about health effects of the mercury inside them.

But, I would argue the Bachmann bill does not go far enough. As Mike Moffatt noted a year ago, prohibitions have a lousy history. If somehow the price of electricity is wrong such that the incandescent light isn't paying the true cost of energy it consumes, the answer is to change the price. Rather than allow a ban to go forward if GAO gives the right answers to her questions, Bachmann should have it construct the right Pigovian tax. Mike has an idea for that, too.

Meanwhile, Congress could save some energy use by just getting rid of daylight savings time. And make farmers happier at the same time.

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