One hundred thirty-three years ago today, inventor Thomas A. Edison was awarded a patent for the incandescent light bulb and the world was changed forever. Edison put a lot of people out of work with this invention.

Oil lamp manufacturers days were numbered. The demand for lamp oil made from whales had a profound effect on the fishing industry. But by contrast, the manufacture of light bulbs, and all the various fixtures in which they could be used, flourished and replaced a lot of those lost jobs.

One Hundred Years of Light

Light bulbs, in various ways, moved the industrial age ahead at a rapid pace. Everything from allowing the farmer to toil before and after dark, to lighting our way in cars and trucks hauling goods to markets made the light bulb quickly indispensible. Illuminated factories allowed multiple shifts and the need for more workers. Darkness was no longer inhibiting progress.

Open your refrigerator and what happens? The light comes on. And I know you closed it very slowly to see if the light really does go out. You walk out of a store at night and parking lot lights show you the way to your car. You open the door to your vehicle and a light comes on to aid you in finding the ignition. You start your car turn on the headlights and drive safely home to your well lighted house.

Uncle Sam’s War on Light

Enter Al Gore and global warming, now known as climate change. Edison’s light bulb, remarkable as it is, just takes too darn much energy to produce and use. Something had to be done.

The US Government to the rescue. Believe it or not, in the freest nation on earth, a government can tell a private company, making a needed product, that they are no longer permitted to produce and sell that product. That product, in this case, would be the incandescent light bulb.

The Wondrous “Curly Bulb”

The government, in its infinite wisdom, decides that a mercury filled, energy saving curly bulb is the answer. Sort of a neon hybrid. What a marvel of modern engineering. Why didn’t Edison see this? It uses less energy, produces the same amount of light as the old bulbs, (well, sort of), and lasts longer. What could possibly go wrong?

In the past, if you broke an incandescent bulb you would simply sweep it up and replace it with another. And there was no problem dumping the broken pieces in your trash.

Break a “curly bulb” and you have a Hazardous Material event. Possible mercury poisoning could occur. And you should never put a curly bulb in your trash because of the danger of the contents ending up in ground water from the landfill. Not sure about you but it seems the cure is worse than the originally perceived problem.

Some Final Thoughts

My real beef here is not the change in type of light bulb. I will admit that I did stock up on the old bulbs. My problem is the government being able to tell a company that they are no longer permitted to manufacture a product based on a hunch that saving energy might have something to do with climate. It’s even more egregious when the two most populated countries in the world have zero regard for the levels of pollution they produce.

When people become accurate in telling me what tomorrow’s weather will be, then I might start putting some weight in Al Gore’s theories. I guess my final question is which product will be outlawed next. The lawnmower? Kitchen sink? Red Solo Cups? I think I am perfectly qualified to decide for myself what kind of light bulb works for me. Why not let the free market decide what products stay or go? Are you beginning to see the light yet?

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