CBS 'Early Show' Touts Government Banning Incandescent Light Bulbs

At the top of the 7:30AM ET half hour on Monday's CBS Early Show, co-host Chris Wragge happily proclaimed: "After 130 years, [Thomas] Edison's invention is basically being phased out....The government is replacing the incandescent bulb with a much more energy efficient light."

Wragge portrayed the government ban as a new "choice" for consumers: "Consumers will now have a choice of two different kinds of bulbs, the CFL and LED and we're going to tell you the difference and which one is better for you, which one's going to be a little more cost effective." Co-host Erica Hill lamented: "It's a tough transition....It's hard to let go." Wragge reassured her: "Well, we're going to hopefully make that process a little easier for you." Hill concluded: "It's been a good run, Thomas Edison."

When the ban on incandescent light bulbs was made law in the 2007 energy bill, then Early Show co-host Harry Smith enthusiastically declared: "This morning for the first time in 32 years we will have a new energy bill. The Energy Independence and Security Act. So guess what, will we see the end of the incandescent light bulb?" Fellow co-host Julie Chen described the legislation as "historic."

On Monday's broadcast, Wragge spoke with Jason Cochran of WalletPop.com about the lighting that would replace the classic bulb. Wragge announced to viewers that they would have a "tough time" finding incandescent bulbs since "some major stores no longer sell them and under federal law they're going to be phased out starting next year." He then asked Cochran: "I know some people are adverse to change....Why is there, all of a sudden, this push to change them out?"

Cochran explained: "They're not very efficient, essentially....they're wasting most of their energy on heat. 90% of the energy that they consume, actually, is wasted in heat and only 10% goes to powering the room." He added: "So these new bulbs that they're coming in with actually last longer, cost a little bit more to buy, but in the end, it'll hurt less in your pocketbook." Wragge replied: "Yeah, you'll save your money."

After Cochran briefly mentioned some of the positives of the "older" bulbs, Wragge decreed: "Okay, out with the old and now let's bring in the new....CFL stands for Compact Fluorescent Lamps. How long do these last? How much more efficient are they?" Cochran replied: "The CFLs generally last about seven years. Some a little less. Some a little more. Which is about ten times longer than one of those Edison incandescent bulbs that we've been talking about."

Wragge then asserted: "And the CFLs are also better for the environment and that's one of the big reasons behind this push." Cochran admitted: "Well, yes and no. I mean, they're burning less carbon or creating less carbon. But when you get rid of them, there's a little bit of mercury in them....So I wouldn't say they're necessarily better for the environment, at the end, if you break them." Wragge added: "And you also have to be very careful of them...they can break very easily." Cochran made a suggestion: "Yeah, you don't want to, maybe, use them in your kids' room where they can knock it over and the mercury inside can possibly – you know, mercury is not something you want to play around with."

At one point, Cochran explained: "Sometimes they [CFLs] have to be recycled or your city or your county may require a certain method of getting rid of them." The Environmental Protection Agency has a three-page manual describing how to properly clean up a broken compact fluorescent light bulb. The "before cleanup" steps include: "a.) Have people and pets leave the room. b.) Air out the room for 5-10 minutes by opening a window or door to the outdoor
environment. c.) Shut off the central forced air heating/air conditioning system, if you have one."

Wragge and Cochran went on to discuss the benefits of Light Emitting Diode or LED bulbs, but noted their high cost, about $40 each.

Wragge later explained: "...people should be aware that they still do have three years. The incandescent bulb will still be around for three more years....When they're totally being phased out." Cochran concluded: "There are pluses and minuses to all of these....But ultimately, I think it's like the mp3 of the light bulb world. And you know, we're moving from vinyl, CFLs might be the cassette. Pretty soon we're going to be all using LEDs, I guess, in another generation." Of course the government never needed to ban vinyl records in order to force that technological development.

Here is a full transcript of the January 31 segment:

7:30AM ET TEASE:

CHRIS WRAGGE: Way back in 1880, you remember this, Thomas Edison patented the electric light bulb. But after 130 years, Edison's invention is basically being phased out. Turning the lights out. The government is replacing the incandescent bulb with a much more energy efficient light and consumers will now have a choice of two different kinds of bulbs, the CFL and LED and we're going to tell you the difference and which one is better for you, which one's going to be a little more cost effective.

ERICA HILL: It's a tough transition. And I have a hard time with the transition, too. The lighting is a little bit different. It's hard to let go.

WRAGGE: Well, we're going to hopefully make that process a little easier for you.

HILL: There you go. It's been a good run, Thomas Edison.

7:38AM ET TEASE:

HILL: Just ahead, wonder what Thomas Edison would say about this?

WRAGGE: Light bulb he invented, it's on its way out. We're going to tell you what you need to know about its replacement.

7:41AM ET SEGMENT:

WRAGGE: Well, if you're looking to buy incandescent light bulbs you could have a tough time finding them. Some major stores no longer sell them and under federal law they're going to be phased out starting next year. The alternatives are called CFLs and LEDs. And here to explain what they are, Jason Cochran of WalletPop.com. Jason, good to see you this morning.

JASON COCHRAN: Hi there.

[ON-SCREEN HEADLINE: Enlighten Us; Shedding Light on New CFL & LED Bulbs]

WRAGGE: I know some people are adverse to change, especially when it comes to something big like this, which is light bulbs, and those incandescent bulbs have been around for so many years. Why is there, all of a sudden, this push to change them out?

COCHRAN: They're not very efficient, essentially. They're cheap, they cost about 57 cents each, but they use about four times the power of the new kind of bulb. You know how they get hot when you want to change them?

WRAGGE: Sure.

COCHRAN: That's not a good thing. That means they're wasting most of their energy on heat. 90% of the energy that they consume, actually, is wasted in heat and only 10% goes to powering the room. So these new bulbs that they're coming in with actually last longer, cost a little bit more to buy, but in the end, it'll hurt less in your pocketbook.

WRAGGE: Yeah, you'll save your money. What is the one, I guess, pro for those older light bulbs, though?

COCHRAN: The light's a little warmer, people like that. They're dimmable. The new kinds of bulbs, they're still figuring out how you can dim them without changing the wiring in your home. So those are two things people like. And plus, again, they're cheap on the front end, if not on the back end.

WRAGGE: Okay, out with the old and now let's bring in the new, which are situated between us right now. You talk about CFLs and LEDs. CFL stands for Compact Fluorescent Lamps. How long do these last? How much more efficient are they?

COCHRAN: The CFLs generally last about seven years. Some a little less. Some a little more. Which is about ten times longer than one of those Edison incandescent bulbs that we've been talking about. And over the life of the bulb, seven years, it'll be the equivalent of about this many (holding container of several incandescent bulbs), essentially, maybe even a few more. And you'll spend about $25 to maintain that bulb over the seven years. These, you'd spend about nearly $100. So you're saving about, you know, 70 plus bucks.

WRAGGE: And the CFLs are also better for the environment and that's one of the big reasons behind this push.

COCHRAN: Well, yes and no. I mean, they're burning less carbon or creating less carbon. But when you get rid of them, there's a little bit of mercury in them.

WRAGGE: Got it.

COCHRAN: So you've got to be very careful about how you dispose of them. So I wouldn't say they're necessarily better for the environment, at the end, if you break them. Sometimes they have to be recycled or your city or your county may require a certain method of getting rid of them. So, mhmm, yes and no.

[ON-SCREEN HEADLINE: CFL Light Bulbs; Contain Mercury & if Broken, Clean Up Carefully]

WRAGGE: And you also have to be very careful of them, with the insulation, with the handling, because they're very sens – they can break very easily.        

COCHRAN: They can break.

WRAGGE: You want to be careful.

COCHRAN: Yeah, you don't want to, maybe, use them in your kids' room where they can knock it over and the mercury inside can possibly – you know, mercury is not something you want to play around with.

WRAGGE: Alright, let's talk about the LED right now, Light Emitting Diode. And these are really, really pricey though, aren't they?

COCHRAN: Yeah. See, but this is the thing, they cost maybe about $40 a bulb.

COCHRAN: Sorry, this one here, closest to you.

WRAGGE: Sure.

COCHRAN: But they can last as long as 23 years. You think about that. So you multiply, you know, one of these L – CFL bulbs by five, so 50,000 hours of light you get out of these things. So that 40 bucks eventually will end up costing you maybe about $100, including the electricity, over the entire life of the bulb. You're saving a lot of money.
    
WRAGGE: And I guess people should be aware that they still do have three years. The incandescent bulb will still be around for three more years.

COCHRAN: 2014, they're pretty much-

WRAGGE: 2014 is when-

COCHRAN: Going to be gone.

WRAGGE: When they're totally being phased out.

COCHRAN: Yeah. There are pluses and minuses to all of these, really. But if you've got to spend the money in the beginning to save it in the end, it might actually be worth it. You know, they're still working out some kinks with the LEDs. Like the light can't be directional. Again, they're not easy to dim. But ultimately, I think it's like the mp3 of the light bulb world. And you know, we're moving from vinyl, CFLs might be the cassette. Pretty soon we're going to be all using LEDs, I guess, in another generation, I would guess.

WRAGGE: Jason Cochran, thanks again.

COCHRAN: Sure.

WRAGGE: Good to see you.   

— Kyle Drennen is a news analyst at the Media Research Center. You can follow him on Twitter here.

Kyle Drennen
Kyle Drennen
Kyle Drennen is a News Analyst for MRC