The environment continues to be a hot-button political issue, as it presents a chance for politicians to score some easy points with the public by mandating all sorts of new laws and restrictions to prove their green credentials. But this political grandstanding overshadows the fact that many green or clean technologies offer economic benefits
to those who use them -- for instance, making facilities more energy-efficient isn't about companies just wanting to be nicer to the planet, it's about cost savings
too. One example of this in the consumer realm is fluorescent lightbulbs. Despite their higher upfront cost, their longer life and lower power consumption offers substantial savings over traditional incandescent bulbs. Given these cost savings (as well as the ongoing improvement in the bulbs' quality and decrease in price), it would seem to be a matter of time before fluorescent bulbs will become more popular and they push incandescents out of the market. But that hasn't stopped
politicians from all over to push for laws banning or phasing out incandescent bulbs
, and it now appears that the US Congress will add such legislation
to a wide-ranging energy bill that's expected to be voted on in October. The legislation would begin phasing out incandescents in 2012, and then by 2020, would call for lighting standards that could be met only by compact fluorescent bulbs or ones with equivalent efficiency. Lighting manufacturers aren't happy with the timetable, saying it's too quick, and add that they're exploring several different technologies to improve the efficiency of lighting, including more efficient incandescent bulbs, new types of halogen lamps and LEDs. It would certainly seem that the market will sort this issue out on its own, as technology improves and more consumers become aware of the cost savings that fluorescents and other types of bulbs can offer. But it would also seem that the brownie points on offer are too hard to refuse for politicians who want to make it look like they're making a difference to the environment.