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Publisher's Letter

New Zealand has lifted the ban on incandescent lamps

Back in December last year, the New Zealand government reversed the ban on incandescent lamps. What an incredibly sensible thing to do! The overall difference in the energy consumption New Zealanders would have achieved in avoiding incandescent lamps and using more efficient types such as compact fluorescent lamps instead would hardly amount to much anyway. The same comment would apply much more forcefully to Australian energy consumption, given that our economy is so energy-intensive, with our large-scale mining and agricultural sectors. But I wonder if there is much likelihood of our Government also reversing the ban? Very little, I would think. That would be too sensible.

Whether or not the Government does have a rethink may be irrelevant now in any case. Incandescent lamps are becoming difficult to obtain, particularly as some major retailers seem to have abandoned them and even major hardware chains such as Bunnings seem to be reducing their range. My advice to readers is that you should stock up on incandescents, particularly the harder-to-get types. In years to come, you may well have to replace many of your lamp fittings because of this silly edict and as everyone should be well aware, it will make precious little difference to your annual energy consumption.

We also note that the UK government is reported to be instituting a ban on power hungry plasma TVs. The New Zealand government has also rejected this approach, arguing that consumers should make their own choice, after they have been provided with the necessary information. Again, this is eminently sensible. But New Zealand is in a temperate zone and not nearly as cold as England. In the UK, a big plasma set would merely cause a slight reduction in the amount of central heating which is typically required for eight or nine months of the year. The fact that big plasma sets can function as room-warmers could be regarded as a bonus!

One has to ask the question: “Why do Governments feel that it is necessary to introduce these silly edicts, supposedly in the interest of reducing energy consumption?” Is it merely to be seen to be “doing something” in the face of the advancing terrors of global warming? Undoubtedly that is true but we think there is also a  “kill joy” component to all of this. You cannot have a big plasma TV or big 4-wheel drive, or even a big house (a McMansion perhaps?) for that matter, because these things use more energy. Never mind that that consumers implicitly know that already and are quite prepared to pay for it.

Realistically, governments around the world have to face up to the fact that making large reductions in carbon dioxide emissions is difficult and very expensive. More importantly, obtaining such reductions in particular sectors of the economy can have many ramifications which were initially not apparent. In any case, with much of Europe presently freezing in the depths of winter, they might welcome some global or at least, local, warming.

So how should governments proceed? Given that much of the interpretation of long-term weather records is extremely difficult and the forecasting of future trends is almost impossible, Governments probably could take the prudent approach as far as climate change is concerned and just “wait and see”.

On the other hand, there is a great deal more certainty about oil and gas energy which is likely to become much more expensive in the future. In this case, governments need to ensure that their nations always have a secure supply of energy in the future. If that means making major reductions in energy consumption, then that is wise.

But that does not mean banning incandescent lamps and big plasma TV sets.

Leo Simpson

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