OMG! LED lighting is killing American freedom!

It appalls me to see how many blowhard crankpots are hiding behind the tenants of “personal freedom” and “liberty” and trying to actually reverse the residential energy efficiency standards enacted in 2007.  I mean, come on…it was the one good thing Bush Jr. did for the environment!

The really twisted part is that history is sadly repeating itself.  Like clinging to their glory days of long-gone youth, some people just can’t let go of past technologies.  Did you know that people actually bemoaned the passing of gaslight in favor of electric light?

Here’s a great historic quote from the blog Obsolescing:

More than 100 years ago, Robert Louis Stevenson wrote “A Plea for Gas Lamps,” which grieved the passing of the evening lamplighter and ranted against the horror of electric light:

“The word electricity now sounds the note of danger. … a new sort of urban star now shines out nightly, horrible, unearthly, obnoxious to the human eye; a lamp for a nightmare! Such a light as this should shine only on murders and public crime, or along the corridors of lunatic asylums, a horror to heighten horror. To look at it only once is to fall in love with gas, which gives a warm domestic radiance…”

I’m surprised there is not a vocal contingent of Tea Party-affiliated lighting designers demanding the right to burn whale oil as their primary illumination source, claiming how the “quality” of the light just can’t be matched by all the newfangled kerosene or gas lamps.

Whale Oil Lamp: Let Freedom Ring!

Thankfully, I can’t imagine anyone has access to actual whale oil anymore.  But the consumer “free market” is just pathetic.   Case in point:  The Yankee Candle Company, the purveyors of state-of-the-art wick-powered illumination systems, reported revenues of $733 million for the 2010 fiscal year.

Intelligent Wick Illumination System: Let Freedom Burn Bright!

Roughly, you could combine over a half-dozen LED darlings like Color Kinetics, Lighting Science Group, Nexxus, etc., toss in the LED fixture revenues from all the big lighting conglomerates, and still not match Yankee Candle’s revenue.

For another scary comparison, Cree, the tech darling of the current administration, and one of the clear leaders in the LED field, reported LED revenues of $789 million for their last fiscal year. Not much higher than all those lilac-honey-cinnamon-melon scented candles.

Thankfully, for commercial projects, energy efficiency is already a done deal.  Thanks to the watts/sqft limitations set by the ASHRAE/IESNA 90.1 building efficiency standard and the local state-by-state adoptions of 90.1 as their commercial building energy codes over the past two decades, incandescent lighting has basically been eliminated from commercial and institutional buildings.  And with the huge savings in energy and maintenance, we’re certainly not hearing any whiny “our freedom is suffering!” protests from those customers.  Indeed, commercial and institutional customers are ready and eager for the extended benefits of LEDs…they’re just waiting for the return-on-investment to best fluorescent tech.

The consumer market will be dragged along, bitching and moaning and whining, just like Robert Louis Stevenson or Howard Brandston or Archie Bunker.  But rest assured:  It will change.

Totally in favor of incandescent lighting!

I would love to follow that last statement by saying that energy efficiency is too critical for our collective survival to selfishly ignore.  But I’m not that naive.

Here’s how the residential market will change:  Consumers will get hit with sharply rising electricity costs.  Then the LED industry will suffer a massive supply glut because of too many semi-conductor manufacturers jumping into the lighting market, driving LED pricing into the basement.  And voila:  The residential market will switch to energy efficient, cheap-as-dirt commodity LED lighting.

Not surprisingly, there is a nearly exact precedent:  The residential market switched almost overnight from pricey whale oil to cheap kerosene.  Snobby crankpots be damned, consumers are cheapskates and with or without government regulations, the market indeed will switch.  It is just a matter of timing.

Hey, I’m happy with whatever path necessary to a better environment.  And at least America has gotten rid of whale oil and gas light as our primary illumination systems!

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About Brad Koerner

Venture Manager - Luminous Patterns Philips Lighting
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