The Clean Energy Future Looks Dim for Light Bulb Workers
David Kreutzer /
The Energy Independence and Security Act (EISA) of 2007 set lighting requirements that, in essence, outlaw the familiar incandescent light bulb. The impact of lighting mandates on energy security is minuscule, since electricity comes almost entirely from secure domestic sources, such as coal. (Petroleum generates about 1 percent of domestic electricity.) However, EISA’s impact on job security is pretty clear for 200 workers in Winchester, Va.
This month General Electric will shut down the last major incandescent light bulb factory in the United States, and the 200 workers in Winchester will lose their jobs. Green advocates hold that more jobs will be created making the high-tech replacements. Too bad the green-job theory is wrong.
Forcing the economy to use more expensive items may create some jobs in a targeted industry, but the higher costs will kill even more jobs elsewhere. (See here and here.) But the bitter irony, in this case, is that while there is a net job loss, the new jobs that are created are created in China. China supplies the overwhelming proportion of the compact florescent bulbs (the twisty ones) that we will need to purchase as replacements for our older bulbs.
It seems that the compact florescent bulbs are surprisingly labor intensive, and that makes China a cheaper place to build them. In fact, just one Chinese company estimates that it manufactures fully half of all compact florescent bulbs sold in the U.S. And this is not an anomaly: Solar panel production is moving to China, as is windmill production.
Washington’s green-economy fantasy is imposing a strange deal on Americans: higher costs and fewer jobs in the U.S. in exchange for a partial offset in employment in China. Why are we paying for that?