11 March 2011

NYT Op-Ed on Technology Standards

I have an op-ed in today's NYT on the misperception, by some, that government has no business in setting technological standards in the marketplace -- It has and will, and to positive effect.  Have a look and please feel free to come back here and discuss and debate.

If you are a first-time visitor, welcome.

45 comments:

  1. I think there are a couple of different issues here. Standardized units are not at all the same as efficiency standards. The units help us all communicate and interoperate. The other standards enforce choices that don't always make sense.

    The lightbulb example is a great place where the government should have stayed out. If people really want the more efficient lightbulbs, then they'll buy them.

    I'd be fine with it if the government were coming up with a standard of measurement for efficiency or whatever. But not so much for enforcing what they think is right.

    I'd like to hear more about how "China, India and other rapidly growing nations are adopting standards that speed the deployment of new technologies," and how this factor is more important that the competitive pressures of others deploying technology.

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  2. boo. as a libertarian i have always loved your cry for good behavior and honesty in climate science. i don't like these types of efficiency standards though

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  3. -1-Matt and -2-libertard

    The distinction between unit standards and performance standards are not as clear cut as you might think. Why do you think that fire hydrants are the same size in every municipality?

    Also, the libertarian argument against standards was lost in the 1890s. Now it is an academic debate (or a nonsensicle congressional debate;-). The practical, political question is thus, given that we have standards, what should they be?

    Thanks!

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  4. -3- Roger,

    Yes, I agree that there is a great value in interoperability...fire hydrants, power outlets, etc. And there are some really good reasons to do those.

    I can't really see how debating a particular standard in Congress is nonsensical (though I suppose that you were directing this at a more general argument about standards), especially when the standard in question was relatively recently put through by Congress.

    The problem with so much of what Congress does is that the unintended consequences are rarely considered and debated.

    Lightbulbs? Let's see, inferior output, hazardous materials, predictions of savings due to longevity that were exaggerated.

    In general, my philosophy of standards is that they should be reactive, not proactive. Once there is a legitimate standard winner, and assuming that there are really good reasons for standards, then, OK.

    Taking an industry leader in efficiency, however, and mandating that everyone copy it, however, seems really wrong. There are other trade offs that might be very important. Perhaps you've just priced out most of the population from owning a dish washer.

    Now, if your government has decided to allow your infrastructure to crumble, and is predicting a developing world electrical grid (I'm looking at you, U.K.)...well, maybe you have no other choice now. I think there are better ways to go.

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  5. -4-Matt

    Thanks ... the distinction between reactive and proactive is an interesting one, and also pretty complicated. I will post up some information and discussion of the Japanese Toprunner program, which one could argue is both reactive and proactive at the same time.

    The tradeoffs that you describe are important and should be an explicit pat of the standard-setting process ... more than can fit into an op-ed of course, but something I'll be following up on here in due cours.

    Thanks!

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  6. Roger,

    As someone who clearly understands economics and writes about it on a regular basis, do you not believe there is sufficient incentive for businesses to increase efficiency? Do you really believe that its government driving for improved effiency? Why would a consumer prefer a refrigerator that costs him $40 in electricity per month rather than $20?

    Consumers will naturally prefer a lightbulb that uses less electricity if all else is equal. The CFL will certainly save money over the life cycle but there are many Americans who clearly don't like the light it provides, aside from the other problems -- installation, etc.

    My understanding is that the only other option now will be the halogen bulb, which as it turns out is still so pricey that it costs more than a standard incandescent over its life cycle.

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  7. -3- Roger,

    I think when you get into the area of safety (i.e. fire hydrants), there needs to be a specific level of performance to ensure firefighters have the tools necessary to do their jobs. Inversely, people chose bulbs based on their performance levels (i.e. the light levels they produce). This is a personal choice in a lot of cases, especially when you talk about use in the home. Even when you think about lighting standards for public areas, it is about the light required for safety not how efficient the bulb produces that light.

    One of the areas that has always perplexed me was the contradictions or hypocrisy of these type of issues. For example, I can go buy a speed boat and run it up and down the lake towing water skiers and tubers, I can buy a big screen TV and watch it all day long or I can go to a (insert venue of choice here) that consumes massive amounts of energy for the pure intent of entertaining the masses. Why are these types of largely discretional consumptions of energy allowed as long as one is willing to pay for them, yet I cannot go buy a bulb of my choice? After all, I am willing to pay for it and its consumption.

    And thing of the children. Where will they be without the Easy Bake Oven!?!?

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  8. The obvious counter example is washing machines. To achieve greater efficiencies in use of water -- something that is important in some parts of the country and less important in others -- machines that get clothes as clean as the average machine did in the 1990s are now 'high-end' and cost far more. I have a well, sunk into a copious source of ground water. Why should my purchase of a washing machine be dictated by the needs of a Los Angelino?

    In that case the government made the decision that water conservation was more important than the performance of the washing machine as a washing machine.

    Even your example of the benefits of standardization of units is oversimplified. For example, it completely ignores how political interference has prevented the more widespread adoption of metric units in the US, at considerable cost to our economy (and resulting in the loss of at least one very expensive NASA space vehicle). When the government decides, ultimately politicians decide.

    Meanwhile, the electronics industry has quietly established uniform standards and protocols by market mechanisms and thankfully without much government interference. Declare victory all you want, Roger; you haven't proven your case.

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  9. Sorry Roger - there's a fundamental failure of logic here. And energy efficiency regulation, like that of light bulbs, is not analogous to a definition of volume or electric current, as in ohms. Standardization has nothing to do with policy-driven regulation.

    And no - quality regulations are not relevant either. German regulation of their own manufacturing is not analogous to American sales regulation - those squiggly light bulbs are made in China. German regulation aided German manufacturers. American regulation is deciding which Chinese product Americans can buy.

    German quality regulations lead to more quality German products. What does American regulation lead to? Only more, and more restrictive regulation.

    I know you have a perfectly reasonable argument to make - I've followed it here - but this column failed to do it.

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  10. As noted in the discussion above, the problem with the government mandating things like types of light bulbs, as opposed to light bulb socket sizes/types, is that the government is not a disinterested observer.

    Phillips, among others, contributed millions to the passage of the CFL law - a law which not only prejudices CFLs vs. the soon to be outlawed incandescent lights, but also the upcoming LED lights.

    This is a clear cut example where a product category which is not clearly technologically superior is being put into a virtual monopoly position via government fiat.

    This is a problem, and is no different than massive subsidies for solar PV now (i.e. 1st generation solar) effectively putting Silicon Germanium into a competitive position despite its fundamental limitations regarding 2nd or 3rd generation PV capabilities.

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  11. Efficiency standards are the low hanging fruit of cost-effectiveness for advancement of energy policy in general. Yet focusing on residential light bulb usage is a distraction at best compared to the areas where real payback and economic development can be stimulated.

    Residential lighting barely accounts for 9% of US household energy consumption. The 75% energy savings achieved with CFL's will reduce overall household electricity usage by an average of 6%, an impressive sum. However, when the average household daily drive 29 miles per day in a car with the fleet average of 19.8 mpg uses 1.75 times the total energy used in the home for the day. A mere 4% improvement in fuel economy will, on average, eclipse the savings from lighting. Mandating efficiency standards for tire construction alone would be completely unnoticed by all but the most discriminating drivers at an estimated cost of $3 to $5 per tire for alternate rubber formulations. This yields a payback time of merely several months. Standards to improve fleet fuel economy by 10% (from 19.8 mpg to 21 mpg) would, according to Ford Motors, would cost approximately $170 dollars (in 2009). This cost would pay for itself in under 10 months at gasoline prices of $3.50 a gallon. This is around 2/3 the payback time for CFL's (in 2009, .5 hr use/day on average, 14 months payback).

    Standards improve our lives and improve our economy. Light bulbs are merely one place to start. CFL's are not made in the US due to the large elemental mercury issues, and so do not really add to our own economy in ways that vehicle and appliance standards can.

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  12. Roger, the standards that I worked with as a mechanical engineer for almost 40 years were not government developed or mandated. The ASME Boiler Code, for example, was developed by engineers in industry to promote pressure vessel safety. Local and state governments later on wrote laws referencing the Code but had no part in writing it.

    The standards for fasteners, materials and most standardized industrial components were developed without government input or mandate. Some standards were developed by and for the military (AN - Army Navy- standards for aircraft components for example) and adopted by industry for non-military use.

    Standards for weights and measure are properly government responsibility because they are not specific to a single industry. Standards for specific industries, like lightbulbs, are better handled by that industry.

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  13. Roger,

    I thought the new bulbs contain poisons? Would you want one to break by your child? Still they will get into the landfills like electric cars and accessories. Then leak into our drinking water. Maybe they are getting less poisonous and I'm worried about nothing?

    Also in Minnesota heat is not waste in a lot of cases. Some electric light bulbs last 100 years.

    UCLA just figured out how to make algae biodiesel from the proteins instead of lipids. 100 times better than electric cars with their coal electricity, powerlines, EMF radiation from the batteries and electric motor right under where you sit, leukemia etc., mining in Afghanistan and Inner Mongolia.



    Thanks,
    Jason

    --
    Jason Thompson
    Feature Editor

    DIESEL POWER Magazine

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  14. You are mixing two meanings of the word "standard". One meaning is that of a definition; the length of a meter, the amount of current in one ampere. Setting these standards can be, but doesn’t have to be a function of government. Most of the standards in force today were developed by industry, not government. For example, the American National Standards Institute (ANSI) has developed many standards, including the character coding I am using to type this post.
    The other meaning of “standard” is a performance objective, like miles/gallon, or lumens/watt. The government really has no business, and probably not the Constitutional right, forcing this kind of standard on people. Some are funny like the low-flush toilets that require two, or more, flushes thereby using more water than the old ones. Some kill people like the miles/gallon rule that forces lighter cars.
    The forced change to CFL lighting is simply political correctness run wild. I tried them since I hate to change light bulbs. I don’t like the color temperature, the ratings on them are wrong as to the comparable incandescent wattage, and they don’t last like they claim.

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  15. -11- Lee,

    Why is it that whenever we have conversations focused on conversation/efficiency we always discuss the savings side of the equation, but there is never a discussion about the losses on the other side? If I save money, someone else has not earned as much.

    As an example I use the case of a nearby public utilities commission. Their water treatment plant was under capacity for the ever-growing population. Instead of increasing capacity (at the time a very expensive proposition) they embarked on a campaign of conversation.

    The campaign was so successful that they managed to reduce consumption by almost 40%. Restrictions were put on washing cars and watering lawn, etc. In the end, the program was a huge success. One problem left to be dealt with. The very next year the township had to increase water rates as they didn’t have enough revenue to fund continued operation, even after the appropriate cuts related to reduced volumes.

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  16. -15- SolarGuy,

    Of course, public utilities, with their natural monopolies, etc, are a bit different than most other enterprises. For one thing, their markets are probably (a WAG on my part) as or more distorted than just about any other due to the actions of government. And that's not even counting conservation by coercion.

    However, to think that my savings are depriving the rest of the economy is to fall prey to the Broken Window Fallacy. When I save money on one product, it allows me to spend more on other things. How else do you suppose we came to a place where we can afford iPhones and internet connections over and above our shelter, food and clothing?

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  17. Re: "dustbin of history." I'm not sure echoing Trotsky is the most effective way to persuade Republicans of your point. ;-)

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  18. Your NYT op-ed is intellectually dishonest and _sneaky_.

    It attacks a political action to give people freedom of choice.

    But its reasoning is not about choice, it is about standards.

    NO ONE is proposing that we drop our definition for watt, ohm, or kilogram -- or any other standard.

    If wish to defend intrusive government MANDATES, say it openly -- don't pretend that you are defending industry STANDARDS.

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  19. I appreciate what you had to say about standards meaning something. Clearly thats important in so many instances. Yet, as a consumer i just dont like these new bulbs, they just seem way too dimm ok. And word has it they are far more dangerous when they are broken.

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  20. #11

    The 75% energy savings achieved with CFL's will reduce overall household electricity usage by an average of 6%

    To add to the point, residential electricity consumption accounts for about 14% of total national energy consumption.

    If I use myself as an example voluntary compliance will make up 2/3rds of the expected savings.

    My wife will be buying bulbs from the local crack dealer before she ends up putting her makeup on under florescent lighting. So the government isn't going to get 100% compliance anyway. They'll just create a market for yet another untaxed illegal good.

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  21. -16- Matt,

    Your point is well taken about the Broken Window Fallacy, although I question whether or not you have just described the quandary of renewable energies. Can they not be seen as a step backwards as they actually cost more to achieve the same result? While there may be more people working in ‘green jobs’, that doesn’t make them necessarily better or more efficient. Is that not akin to taking the wheel off the wheelbarrow and making it a litter? Of course hidden costs such as the cost to the environment need to be accounted for.

    And if saving small amounts of energy is that important why don’t we just outlaw television? That kind of step would free up plenty of people and resources to be used for more noble causes like scientific research. Entertainment is discretionary whereas finding a cure for cancer is far more important. We could also put our efforts into making toasters that last 100 years. This would free up even more people to work in areas such as space exploration. But I digress.

    There’s a little bit of devil’s advocate in there along with some legitimate inquiry. Ultimately we want to have a balanced society that allows us to enjoy life and not make it a completely meaningless chore from birth to death.

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  22. Thanks all for the various comments, I'll pick up some of the main themes in future posts. For now, some quick replies ...

    -6-libertard

    No, I don't think that there sufficient incentives for the market to innovate. One reason for this, not in my op-ed, is the presence of incumbent industries and sectors which, together with government, lobby for the status quo.

    -7-SolarGuy

    Society could decide to adopt performance standards for any technology that it chooses to, and current it chooses to do so for many, many technologies. See:
    http://standards.gov/standards_gov/standards.cfm

    -8-Gerard Harbinson

    You issue with washing machines is the content of the standards, not their existence. The relationship of the electronics industry and government is tighter than you suggest.

    -9-Mark B.

    It seems that we agree that standards should focus on technological performance.

    -12-Rick

    Thanks, this is a good example. I am less concerned with the genesis than the outcome -- in the case that you cite the (mostly) industry-led standards are a part of US Code.

    -14-Sam Hall

    The government routinely implements "performance standards."

    -17-Jonathan Gilligan

    ;-)

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  23. Apply standards by all means. Set & publish energy efficiency, spectral peak, release of poisons on breakage/disposal, actual light output, time to each ALO &c. Provide a standard for each level of output/input. Measure, recommend, prescribe a standard for each. No problem.
    But restrict the right of free citizens to purchase what they want? Now that's a step too far!

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  24. Consumers will naturally prefer a lightbulb that uses less electricity if all else is equal.

    We already know they don't. Economic arguments won't beat fear (hence opposition to GM crops) or tradition (the US still not using metric) or desire to look good (SUVs). People are not rational about many things and it is useless to pretend that they are.

    Many people, especially those on low incomes, struggle to buy more expensive things which will save them money in the long run - they continue to get expensive car loans when buying inefficient cars for example. They know what their long term good is (they're not stupid) but they lack the capital that makes it possible.

    It is funny as a non-American to watch the contortions the US will go through to avoid "government interference". You've got a humungous military, a huge internal intelligence network and a prison system larger than many of the world's countries. Yet you worry about lightbulbs as a symbol of state oppression!

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  25. My own personal light bulb standard is that I replace incandescent bulbs with CFL's as the old bulbs burn out, and not before. The seldom-used cheap incandescents in various closets have lasted the 20 years since the house was built and will likely last several decades more, consuming negligible electricity all the while. The lights that are on for hundreds of hours per year are now all CFL.

    It seems pretty sensible to me, but I don't see how any regulation could be as sophisticated as my own personal scheme. There are applications for which the latest, greatest, most efficient technology is not the right answer.

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  26. Roger:

    IEEE-SA , the major electronics standards setting agency in the world, is explicitly non- governmental. Its protocols have guided the computational, communication and electronics world for a century, without significant government input. For example, a single standard, IEEE 802.3, is the universal ethernet protocol. Concomitantly, these three industries have revolutionized the world we live in.

    IEEE is all the demonstration one needs that a voluntary association can fill a global and immensely important standard setting role, and do it superbly over a long time

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  27. -26-Gerard Harbison

    Sure, but government has a role also, I'd suggest surfing around a bit at standards.gov to get a sense of the deep inter-relationship of voluntary standards organizations (themselves motivated early in the last century by the creation of NBS) and the government, and how both shape the market and, indeed, innovation.

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  28. -21- SolarGuy,

    I would absolutely say that renewables at their current state are a step backwards, economically.

    There's more to the environmental costs. Consider that richer countries tend to be a lot cleaner than poorer countries, even though we may burn a lot more coal and oil and natural gas.

    Part of that is because we have enough money to clean things, because it's worth it to us to do so.

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  29. #24 Mark

    struggle to buy more expensive things which will save them money in the long run

    A two pack of CFL bulbs in the US costs $1.98.
    Hardly outside of anyone's financial reach.

    If one asks the lighting manager at one of our home improvement stores(one of our TV networks did) they will tell you that they sell more CFL bulbs then incandescent bulbs.

    It would appear that the Great Unwashed in the US are for the most part adopting CFL bulbs without being forced.

    It's just part of Republican Dogma that if the free market system is producing the desired result without government intervention then the government should stay out of it.

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  30. -29- Harrywr2,

    Yes, the light bulbs are unlikely to break anyone's budget. However, a clothes or dishwasher might be another story.

    With respect to "Republican Dogma," I prefer to say that the concept of a "desired result" is suspect to begin with, so why try to use government force to bring it about (along with other unintended consequences, of course). So there had better be a really good reason for it. Marginal electricity cost savings, with possible overall cost of ownership savings (depends on actual longevity!), plus inferior output does not seem like a good trade off.

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  31. Hi Roger,

    Which part of the Constitution do you think grants Congress the power to ban incandescent lightbulbs?

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  32. -31-markbahner

    My op-ed didn't mention banning incandescent bulbs. but if Congress decided to do so, it would be perfectly constitutional under the commerce clause (Art 1, Sec 8, Clause 3).

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  33. "My op-ed didn't mention banning incandescent bulbs."

    This was the first sentence of your op-ed:

    "LAST week Michele Bachmann, a Republican representative from Minnesota, introduced a bill to roll back efficiency standards for light bulbs, which include a phasing out of incandescent bulbs in favor of more energy-efficient bulbs."

    Isn't "...a phasing out of incandescent bulbs in favor or more energy efficient bulbs" the same as "banning incandescent bulbs"?

    "...but if Congress decided to do so, it would be perfectly constitutional under the commerce clause (Art 1, Sec 8, Clause 3)."

    Why is that? Because incandescent bulbs cross state lines?

    Do you think it would also be perfectly Constitutional for Congress to ban candles?

    How about compact fluorescent lights?

    How about handguns?

    Pool heaters?

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  34. Roger:

    Actually, I was impelled by your column to read NBS/NIST's own official history. Particularly if one bears in mind that an institution in writing its own history might be a little less than objective, one might come to substantially different conclusions. In fact, the vast expansion in the NBS in the early years seems to have been driven by the desire of Federal agencies to have uniform standards for purchased materials. There was a secondary embrace of these standards by industry.

    At the time of the foundation of NBS, there was clearly some need among the various state weights and measurements departments for some authoritative central agency; it's worth remembering that many of the states at the time were in a pretty primitive state. And NBS filled that niche. It also reflected a tendency in the still young US to emulate the state-controlled institutions of Europe. The question is, does the niche still exist? I would argue it does not, to the same extent at least. Just as government run postal services and telephone monopolies are now anachronisms, I think one can make a strong case that while the state may reasonably impose some standards by statute, experience shows drawing up the standards themselves is better done by non-state agents.

    i also think that the state should be very careful to confine statutory regulation to matters of public safety and the prevention of commercial fraud. For example, if we'd decided to regulate the internet in 1995, we would have stifled it.

    FWIW, my father worked for the Irish Standards Institute for 30 years. I'm not immutably hostile to such institutions; a lot of his time was spent helping Irish industry become competitive with the rest of the EU.

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  35. -33-markbahner

    Incentives to phase something out are not the same as a prohibition. I explicitly say in the op-ed that legacy technologies would still have a place.

    The answer to you question about constitutionality is, in all cases, yes, it would be constitutional (let's leave hand guns out of the discussion for now, as they have their own place in the constitution).

    Congress has banned many technologies:

    chlorofluorocarbons
    crack cocaine
    assault weapons
    high-powered laser pointers
    high-res GPS
    whale oil

    I don't think that constitutionality is a primary issue here, legislative and public politics are much more important.

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  36. -34-Gerard Harbison

    I pretty much agree (though I'd quibble with the motivation for early standards). I'd note that it is perfectly reasonable to debate and discuss how standards should be developed (like you, I'd argue for a large industry role), but that is a very different question than whether there should be standards at all, which is the position taken (at least publicly) by Bachmann, Barton and colleagues.

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  37. Hi Roger,

    "The answer to you question about constitutionality is, in all cases, yes, it would be constitutional (let's leave hand guns out of the discussion for now, as they have their own place in the constitution)."

    So in your opinion all of those could be banned...except hand guns?

    What about alcoholic beverages? Could Congress ban them?

    And going back to candles...could Congress ban people making them at home for personal use? What about people who made them and only sold them within their state? Or made them and gave them out as a public service?

    You write:

    "Congress has banned many technologies:"

    Yes, and Congress has violated the Constitution many times.

    "I don't think that constitutionality is a primary issue here,..."

    Did you ask Michele Bachmann what she meant by, "government has no business telling an individual what kind of light bulb to buy”?

    Don't you think it's possible she was saying that the Constitution does not authorize Congress to tell an individual what kind of light bulb to buy?

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  38. -37-markbahner

    Who knows what Bachmann meant beyond appealing to populist sentiment. Going after the constitutionality of product performance standards is, in my view, a non-starter. See, e.g., http://topics.law.cornell.edu/wex/rational_basis_test

    That said, if you can convince 5 SCOTUS judges of your position, I'll change my mind ;-)

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  39. @libertard (#6)

    You said: As someone who clearly understands economics and writes about it on a regular basis, do you not believe there is sufficient incentive for businesses to increase efficiency?

    Actually there are plenty of situations where businesses have no incentive to increase efficiency:

    1) The business has a monopoly. No competition equals no need to offer a better product.
    2) The things being used less efficiently are themselves a profit center
    3) The business has no pricing power, and making things more efficient is more expensive
    4) The business occupies the low price niche: i.e. sells to a different consumer segment - one less concerned with the long term than the short term affordability

    There are plenty more reasons as well as real life examples.

    Government regulation in and of itself isn't good or bad.

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  40. #30 Matt 'clothes or dishwasher'

    I bought my wife one of those jumbo high efficiency washer and dryers sets and indeed it was pricey, surely beyond what our finances would have allowed in our younger years.

    For the first couple of months there was a small noticeable drop in the electric and water bills. Then my wife discovered that some of the stuff that rarely got washed because it wouldn't fit in our 'young and poor' washing machine would fit in the new one. King size duvets, throw rugs, curtains, couch pillows etc etc etc.

    I think some of these people who make the energy efficiency standard don't understand 'rebound effect'. I also doubt they understand that young families frequently have to finance appliance purchases at exorbitant rates.

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  41. Thank God we have the brilliant govt people to set standards for those stupid businesses else we'd never figure out how to compete.

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  42. -38- Roger,

    We're getting a bit off topic, but with respect to waiting for 5 Justices to change your mind, I would refer you to the 10th Amendment:

    "The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people."

    That is just to say that as citizens, we should not simply be passive and accept whatever is decided by the various parts of the government.

    So while I agree that the SCOTUS has made the Commerce Clause massive (e.g., growing wheat for your own use is interstate commerce!), that doesn't mean I have to agree.

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  43. Thomas Firey at Cato-at-Liberty critiques this article. An excerpt:

    "The weights-and-measures and product standards that he cites are examples of government response to market failures—instances where private action is unable to reach efficient results. ...

    But where is the market failure with incandescent bulbs? After nearly 125 years of use, people know the drawbacks and advantages of incandescents"

    Whole post here:
    http://www.cato-at-liberty.org/pielkes-problem

    (Hi Roger. Congrats on getting in the NY Times, even though I don't like the light bulb ban.)

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  44. Firstly,
    Setting standards is of course -as you say - useful in a comparative sense, so everyone knows what they are getting

    It's nice to know that LAMP A is labelled "Energy star", X lumens, X watts, or whatever.

    But:
    That doesn't mean banning products not reaching
    a standard = they are simply graded below it.
    I understand you defend it somewhat, in allowing for specialist shops, but I think it misses the
    point about consumer freedom of choice

    Consumer choice is important:
    You seem to forget that setting energy usage standards on any products affects its characteristics in many ways
    (usability, construction, weight, appearance, and/or performance as well as price)

    This is illustrated on the website referenced below

    Now to market issues:
    There are 2 fundamentally different approaches to achieving Energy Efficiency in America:

    Regulation Standards versus the Free Market

    I believe in the stimulation of competition on so-called failing markets,
    rather than energy usage standards that remove the cheap popular competition and delivers big profits to lobbying new-tech companies
    - if their products are so great, then people will buy them.

    An extensive comparison of free market competition, taxation, and regulation on light bulbs here: http://ceolas.net/#li23x


    Competition ensures that profit-seeking utilities, industries and
    businesses themselves want to keep their costs down, including their
    energy costs, without being told how to do so.

    It also means they are forced into market research of what people want
    - which includes energy saving products, that save them money.

    Power plants use less fuel, say coal, in supplying electricity,
    Grids have less transmission losses,
    Businesses and consumers use less electricity,
    manufacturers use less electricity in making products,
    and energy efficient products are made, that people actually want to buy and use.

    Regulators keep extolling "How great the new energy saving products are": Good.
    Then let the manufacturers get off their backsides and market their
    products accordingly, rather than look to ban the popular cheap competition.

    "Expensive to buy but cheap in the long run"?
    Battery and washing up liquid manufacturers can imaginatively
    advertise and sell such products.
    So can light bulb manufacturers - instead of looking for big easy profits from bans on cheap and popular but unprofitable alternatives.

    The overall savings from regulations are very small anyway - less than
    1% of total USA energy usage, using US Dept of Energy statistics etc ( http://ceolas.net/#li171x )
    .

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  45. Having thought further about your article I have written an essay on Standards and Markets:
    http://ceolas.net/#cc203x
    It covers product standards in general, aspects in terms of creativity, convenience and choice,
    as well as planned obsolescence and other issues relating to energy usage and lifespan standards.

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