Monday, 2 November 2009

Further difficulties in environmentalist calculation

Absent comprehensive Pigovean taxes, it ain't easy being green.

BoingBoing highlights the difficulties facing an environmentalist trying to decide between LED lights and compact fluorescents. LEDs are highly energy efficient in theory, but less energy efficient than compact fluorescent in actual implementation, at least for now.
Again, I want to stress that LEDs don't suck. And where they do suck, they're getting better. But I don't want you to get burned by hype. And right now the amount of hype surrounding these things would make Flava Flav blush.

*Yes, fluorescent lamps contain mercury. But so does the pollution from coal-fired power plants. This is part of what makes the green-ness of LEDs so complicated right now. If you get your energy clean, it might well be more green to buy an LED over a fluorescent, even if it uses more energy to produce the same amount of light. But if your energy comes from coal, that could change the equation, especially when you consider the fact that a lot of cities have good fluorescent recycling programs.
And what about the manufacturing processes for both LEDs and fluorescents? And the manufacturing processes for the inputs for those plants, both machines and raw materials? And the manufacturing processes for those?

Prices remain a miracle.

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