Friday, January 18, 2008

More Heat Than Light

A dumb idea, brought to us by Allegheny Power and the Maryland Public Service Commission. (Quick aside: Remember when we were told we could choose our electrical supplier? How's that working out?)

A couple months ago, LC and I got a box in the mail. We had no idea what it was or who sent it to us, so we refused it and sent it back.

It turns out that this box contained two compact fluorescent lights, or CFLs. Allegheny sent these to us via a supplier right around the time that President Bush signed into law an energy bill that will effectively legislate the incandescent bulb out of existence, as this Weekly Standard article details. You might want to know, inter alia, that

once it's fully aglow, according to Department of Energy guidelines, you need to leave it on for at least 15 minutes. In a typically chipper, pro-ban article last week, U.S. News and World Report explained why: "Turning a CFL on and off frequently shortens its life." Odd, isn't it--an energy-saving device that you're not supposed to turn off?

Truth be told, we have many CFLs in our house already, but they do take quite a while to warm up, and many of them simply aren't as bright as their incandescent counterparts. In any event, CFLs aren't all they're cracked up to be. And you can't just throw them in the trash, either.

Bearing all this in mind, Allegheny mailed two of these bulbs to each and every one of its 270,000 Maryland customers, generally from Frederick County westward. And then had the nerve to BILL all its customers for the unsolicited CFLs! That's a move that Eddie Haskell would admire, he who snookered Wally Cleaver into shoveling snow from some lady's walk and then trying to demand money for it.

The outrage was quick, loud, and furious, save for a ditzy local newscaster who was happy to receive--and pay for--these bulbs. Beyond the consumers who started noticing a 96-cent monthly surcharge on their bills for the CFLs, post offices in small towns began to be overrun with the boxes.

Finally, Allegheny gave in and agreed to eat the costs of the bulbs. How gracious of them.

Note too this scare tactic used by the MD PSC:

In a report released a month ago, the Maryland PSC said that because Maryland uses more electricity than it generates, efforts to conserve energy are critical. The report said shortages could force mandatory usage restrictions such as rolling blackouts by 2011 or 2012.
Note how that's conveniently timed after the current governor's term ends. Coincidence? No chance for a Schwarzenegger-esque recall unless O'Malley gets re-elected, which I doubt. And I love how the PSC tried to look tough by taking Allegheny to task for a program that it (the PSC) approved.


Silvergirl said...

Hey, Cyg! We have used CFLs for years now. I did not know you should not turn it off before 15 minutes, but we usually keep them on for longer than that.

I was not happy at all when I found out the bulbs were not free. I had not ordered them, and we did not need them. Allegheny charge way more for them than the price we can buy them for at Home Depot. Sneaky power companies! Power corrupts, lol!

Dymphna (4HisChurch) said...

Isn't it illegal to mail someone something and bill them for something they did not order?!! Where in the world did they get the gall to do that?!? I think you should have been able to keep the bulbs at no charge rather than having to send them back.

Cygnus said...

We didn't have to send them back; we simply did because we had no idea what they were. But those who have them now can keep them.

Dymphna (4HisChurch) said...

Oh, that's good. Still, the audacity of them!!

Kimberly M., a.k.a. KimberlyKnits said...

Hey, Cyg, the CFL story gets even better. Know how fluorescent light fluoresces? Because a drop of mercury is inserted into each tube and heated until it becomes a vapor. That's right, those lovely CFL bulbs may last forever, but they're also hazardous waste material.

Gotta love the green moment.