Incandescent, CFL, & LED bulbs: Pros & Cons

OK.  I’ve just heard of a new federal mandate that would effectively prohibit the sale of the incandescent light bulb, long a staple of many households.  I’m all for finding a way to fulfill my current lighting requirements with less energy consumption but I’d rather take a logical approach to the problem than follow a mandate that does not take such an analysis into consideration.  Setting aside the fact that this represents yet another intrusion of government into the internal affairs of the individual, a pro-con analysis needs to be done.  Let’s start with the pros and cons of the incandescent bulb:

The pros:

They’re cheap and their efficiency increases with higher wattage consumption.

The cons:

These wattage consumptions are more than many of us are comfortable with given the increasing energy costs.

Which brings me to the CFL bulb:

The pros:

They’re much more efficient than incandescents and they’ve come to be nearly as cheap as incandescents.

The cons:

They contain unsafe levels of mercury.  This results in some hidden costs besides the obvious risk to the environment and our health should the mercury contained in these bulbs leak into the environment.  Because of this if you break a CFL bulb you can’t just sweep up the debris and toss it.  You have to call in an environmental cleaning crew (who will be wearing HAZMAT suits) and that will likely cost a good couple of thousand bucks.  The waste management services of most localities also implement special procedures for dealing with CFL bulb waste, procedures that cost money to implement.  This results in a higher local property tax bill for everyone.

Which brings me now to the LED bulb:

The pros:

They’re much more efficient, more efficient than even CFL’s (at least at lower wattage equivalencies such as the 60-watt equivalency).  They also contain no mercury, eliminating that risk to our health and the environment.  They also last much longer than either incandescents or CFL’s.

The cons:

They cost plenty to buy.  The average LED bulb costs roughly $40 – $50 for a 60-watt equivalent LED bulb.  Their efficiency also drops with higher wattage consumption.  For example: LED’s are more efficient than CFL’s at the 60-watt equivalency but at the 100-watt equivalency, from what I read, an LED bulb would have to consume at least 30 watts of power, giving the CFL the advantage in energy efficiency in this higher wattage equivalency (CFL can produce 100-watt equivalent light consuming only 26 watts of power).  Also a 100-watt equiv. LED would be roughly several times the size of a standard bulb and probably cost roughly $100 – $200!  (eek!)  But it would still make the LED much more efficient than incandescent bulbs.

But despite the cons, if you can afford these initial one-time costs for the LED bulbs, the energy cost savings could possibly offset the cost of the bulbs.  The tricky part is actually coming up with the money for these LED bulbs, especially in this tough economy (unless of course Bill Gates is feeling generous enough to replace every light fixture in the US with an LED bulb, but I’m not holding my breath  :-P).

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Algae: Our Possible Future As An Alternative Fuel Source? You Decide!

In a previous blog I wrote about how us conservatives always seem to get a bad rep in, besides issues regarding the needy (which I’ve addressed in numerous other blogs), that we also have  a bad rep on issues regarding “going green.”

It’s not that I wouldn’t like to see us move to more environmentally friendly sources of fuel and energy, it’s that the ideas liberals have proposed thus far for doing so oftentimes involve much more government control over our private lives than the Founding Fathers intended.  This in turn creates an environment where “going green” costs lots of….well….green (pardon the pun).  I mean, have you seen the price of organic items?  To shop organic you’d have to be part of the “rich and famous” crowd.  For example an alternative to artificial sweeteners like splenda is in the organic section of Wegman’s called xylitol, a sugar alcohol that, unlike sugar, metabolizes independently of insulin, causing very little, if any rise in blood glucose levels.  A lot of sugar-free chocolates use a sugar alcohol like xylitol as the sweetener.  They also have  a rather unfortunate side-effect when consumed in excess quantities.  Let’s just say that if you plan to consume a sugar alcohol in excess quantities you’d better have plenty of Immodium handy.  Anyhow, the bags of xylitol in the organic food section at Wegman’s were $8 – $9 apiece.  Yikes!  I think I’ll stick with Splenda thank you very much.  Or at the very least Truvia, an all natural sweetener that is a blend of stevia and erythritol, another sugar alcohol commonly found in grapes.

Anyhow, back to alternative fuel.

One example of a liberal idea that would not be viable is that they’ve bandied about the idea of using corn and other land-based crops as an ethanol source.  This is problematic because a lot of these crops are also used as food sources.  And there’s already a high enough demand on crop farmers such as corn farmers to produce enough to be used as food.  To add on demand for use of corn as an ethanol source would quickly become more than most corn farmers could produce.  Another problem arises when you consider the amount of time it takes to grow most land-based crops.  So not only would total aggregate demand outpace supply in this area, but producing the supply of corn itself (and other land crops) is a very time-intensive process.

Another problematic idea was the idea to use water as fuel for cars.  I think everybody knows that water would be of no use in a combustion engine, as water does not burn.  About the only way it could be used is to redesign a car engine to work not as a combustion engine but as an engine that would break apart the water molecules and use the hydrogen as fuel and expel the oxygen out the exhaust pipe.  And that’s problematic because the Engine would already have to have a certain amount of energy available to it to initialize that process, as any student of chemistry knows that it requires an investment of energy to break a molecular bond.

But what most people have overlooked is the possibility of using algae as an alternative fuel source, one that has the potential to compete with crude oil.  For one thing there’s currently not a very high demand for using algae as a source of food.  About the only people that use it for food are those of Asian decent, otherwise there tends to be very little demand for algae as a food product.  I once tried a seaweed cracker and found that the taste left something to be desired.  So you could grow crops of algae and use nearly the whole crop for the purposes of fuel production.

Algae can produce a lot of oil.  Many estimates put algae as having a good 60% of its weight in oil and potential oil yields of roughly 26,000 gallons per hectare of algae, give or take a few hundred.  That sounds like a pretty decent yield to me.  Thus many estimates that I’ve come across state that we wouldn’t need much more than 15,000 square miles total in algae crops to fulfill our needs in the area of oil production.

Algae is also nature’s multi-purpose tool.  The leftover plant matter from extracting the oil could be used to make organic animal feed, which would in turn free up some more of the corn supply since right now corn is the popular thing to use to make animal feed.  It could also be used to make those biomass charcoal briquette substitutes that I see all the time at Wegman’s in their organic section.  The leftovers could also be fermented to produce an alcohol that could be used as a fuel, like ethanol.  Though I think fermenting it into propanol or butanol would make better sense because ethanol is also used as a drinking alcohol.  So if you used ethanol as a fuel source you’d probably see people at the fuel pump station fueling themselves up rather than the car, unless you were to add some sort of toxin to the supply of ethanol to be used for fuel that would render it not for human consumption.  Making the leftovers into propanol or butanol would make better sense because those aren’t drinking alcohols and so no toxin would be needed.  Those alcohols are toxic enough on their own for human consumption.  Crude oil is also used as a source of large hydrocarbons that get sent to a hydrocarbon cracking station to make propene molecules, which are then hydrolized to make isopropyl alcohol, a popular first aid item.  Algae could be easily substituted here as the oil source.

Algae also has another advantage.  Unlike most land-based crops, algae grows much more rapidly.  I imagine you could have a crop of algae ready for use in much less time than a crop of corn.  Also, you could have 2 different types of algae crops going: one with high lipid content for use in oil production and another with high carbohydrate content which could be fermented into whichever alcohol you think could be better used as a fuel.  Or you could have a third crop to ferment into ethanol and sell it as moonshine….LOL!

So, could algae be our best bet as an economically viable and environmentally friendly source of fuel for our automobiles?  You decide!  As always my comment board is open.

Environmental Blog

It occurs to me that there is one issue where I can agree with liberals to a certain extent.  That of being good stewards of the world created for us to live in.  But that is the extent to which conservatives like me and liberals have something in common.  It is in the type of methods they use to encourage this where liberals and conservatives differ as greatly as the distance between east and west.

That being said, I have had the pleasure of civil discourse with known liberals who are truly interested in what kinds of solutions we as conservatives come up with, well, really only one so far, fellow blogger Ms. Lifeofdi.  This proves that if conservatives like me seek to promote their values with love, they will find a wealth of people seeking intelligent and civil discourse.  But in general what I’ve noticed is that to encourage good steward ship of the environment, many liberal seek methods that ultimately serve to increase the cost of living for everyone and encourage even more government expansion into our private lives.  Some even seek to devalue human life as a blight upon “Mother Earth” and seek to control through things like forced sterilization and abortions the rate at which new members of humanity enter the world.  This leads to another subject which I may write about in a future blog.

Conservatives, on the other hand, seek the same thing, but our methodology does not involve increasing government control and therefore increases in the cost of living due to the resultant increase in taxes.  We as conservatives seek alternatives to foreign crude oil that encourage the productivity and innovation and spirit of free-market competition that once made our nation the envy of the world.  One of them is off-shore drilling.  If we have to depend on crude oil at the very least as a backup in case sources of alternatives dry up or come under attack by our enemies, then it should come from domestic sources.  Keep the money here instead of putting it into the pockets of the Arab nations that make up OPEC.  Although I have heard a lot about the prospect of using algae as a biological source of oil from which gasoline and diesel can be made.  From what I have read algae is extremely plentiful and can produce very high yields of oil.  The yield can be as much as around 26,000 gallons per hectare according to various articles I’ve read on this subject.  That sounds like a pretty good yield.  And algae regrows at a pretty rapid rate too according to these articles.  So it sounds like they might be on to something here, esp. since encouraging research into the efficacy of algae as a source of oil would facilitate the creation of desperately needed private sector jobs in algae farming.  I welcome comments from my very few readers as to how effective this method might be.  Another way to be a good steward of the environment is to learn from our Depression Era grandparents.  Some of the methods of doing every day things that assisted them in saving money also have the added benefit of being environmentally friendly.  For example it is possible to make your own natural free and clear laundry soap from a bar of Ivory, some washing soda, and some borax, and some water (or no water if you’re trying to make a powder rather than a liquid).  You can also make your own febreeze from 1 cup of vinegar, 1 cup of liquid fabric softener, and 2 cups of water.  The Dollar Tree in my neck of the woods sells vinegar in 1/2 gallon jugs for a buck a piece, making it 2 bucks per gallon there.  And it is made from alcohol distilled from grain.  Also at Dollar Tree they have available liquid fabric softener that is made with biodegradable surfactants.  So just by encouraging frugality you’re also encouraging small ways in which we can be more environmentally friendly.  And it won’t cost us anything in terms of civil liberties or taxes (well except for maybe local sales taxes…..LOL).