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Right Wingers Attack Innovative $50 Light Bulb Because They Can’t Do Math

Brad Johnson
Think Progress / News Report
Published: Saturday 10 March 2012
“One of the strangest phenomena of modern-day politics is the right-wing antagonism toward American clean-energy manufacturing, a consequence of the fossil-fuel industry’s stranglehold on our nation’s conservatives.”
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A slanted Washington Post story by Peter Whoriskey attacked the innovative $50 light bulb that won the Department of Energy’s $10 million L Prize for lighting innovation as being “costly,” “exorbitant,” and “too pricey” in comparison to a $1 incandescent bulb — based on faulty math. The Philips LED bulb, which is assembled in Wisconsin with computer chips made in California, is a technical breakthrough, with high-efficiency natural-color light. At no point does the article — which appeared online with the tendentious headline “Government-subsidized green light bulb carries costly price tag” — compare the lifetime cost of the super-efficient (10-watt), long-lasting (30-year) bulb with that of traditional 60-watt light bulbs. An accompanying infographic prepared by Patterson Clark and Bonnie Berkowitz compared costs, asserting that the lifetime cost of the $50 bulb plus electricity would end up being $5 more than traditional bulbs:

Washington Post graphic incorrectly claims lifetime cost of $50 LED bulb is $5 higher than traditional incandescents.

Unfortunately for the Washington Post’s credibility, the cost calculation was extremely wrong. Clark and Berkowitz’s assessment assumes that the kilowatt-hour price of electricity is $0.01, instead of actual average retail price of $0.12 and rising. This factor-of-ten error demolishes the entire premise of Whoriskey’s article. ThinkProgress Green has prepared a corrected graph, based on a low-ball estimate of $0.10/kWh electricity:

A corrected version of the Washington Post lightbulb cost comparison shows $50 LED bulb over $100 cheaper than incandescents. Prepared by ThinkProgress Green.

Instead of issuing a correction, the Washington Post silently excised the false section of their infographic online.

Whoriskey’s attack on the innovative, money-saving light bulb was promoted by the Drudge Report and picked up by right-wing blogs as further evidence that American clean-tech innovation is an Obama boondoggle. At Michelle Malkin‘s blog, Doug Powers complains about the “$10 million in prize money taxpayers are on the hook for in order to pay a company to create light bulbs people either can’t afford or won’t want.” Gateway Pundit screams: “It’s an Obama World… Gas Reaches $5 a Gallon & “Green” Light Bulbs Cost You $50 Each.” “The same people who can afford to drive a Volt (and have the limo pick them up when it runs out of charge) will be the ones purchasing this idiocy,” Pirate’s Cove blathers. American Enterprise Institute scholar Kenneth Green blasted the “Ludicrous Prize” as one of “epic energy-failures.” At Ricochet, George W. Bush speechwriter Troy Senik asks, “What lost? A bulb powered by the hoofbeats of unicorns?”

One of the strangest phenomena of modern-day politics is the right-wing antagonism toward American clean-energy manufacturing, a consequence of the fossil-fuel industry’s stranglehold on our nation’s conservatives. The Washington Post shouldn’t be aiding and abetting this ugly trend.

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ABOUT Brad Johnson

Brad Johnson is the Editor for ThinkProgress Green at the Center for American Progress Action Fund. Brad holds a bachelor’s degree in math and physics from Amherst College and master’s degree in geosciences from the Massachusetts Institute for Technology. He is the co-author of Technomanifestos and the founder of Prior to joining the Center, he worked as a developer for Saatchi & Saatchi, Lextranet, and the Democratic National Committee. Brad grew up in Boston, Massachusetts.

Nice information about LED

Nice information about LED lights. Thanks for sharing.


Hear Hear!!!

Hear Hear!!!

Um... doesn't anyone know

Um... doesn't anyone know that the Washington Post and all its little whining puppies are owned lock, stock and barrel by the oil industry? Looking for truth in the Post is like looking for a live minnow in an oil spill.

The free markets that give us

The free markets that give us $4 gas, derivatives that bankrupt the country, 3/10ths of a % interest rates on savings and 12% credit card rates, and 25% marginal income tax rates for workers and 15% for the wealthy? Free markets work when they are controlled by regulation. Greed needs direction. It doesn't take big government, it takes competent government.

Low interest rates on savings

Low interest rates on savings are the direct result from the Fed increasing the money supply, not from the free market, unless government created private monopolies like the Fed are now considered part of the free market.

This comparison is total bunk

This comparison is total bunk to begin with, because it is based on a ten yr span. The LED bulb lasts 30 years with some lasting over 50 years.

If we use the 30 year life of the LED bulb there is no comparison. For 6o watt bulbs burning 6 hours per day in 30 years would use 3942 KWH. A 1o watt LED burning the same time would use 657 KWH. At 10 cents a KWH the incandescent bulbs would use $3942 of power and the LED would use $657 of power. If we use their $1 a bulb and 30 bulbs for 10 years, then it would cost $90 for 30 yrs of incandescent bulbs and $55 for ONE LED. Even if you throw out the power use which is crazy, the LED still saves $35 in bulb costs alone.
If we factor in how many power plants we wouldn't need to build then the savings are out of this world both economically and environmentally. BUT that would mean the the Republican fuel and power metering business model would take a serious hit and they WANT to keep us slaves to their metering business model. Afterall, it's $3320 in savings we wouldn't be paying their buddies selling power with ONE 60 watt light bulb. Multiply that savings by how many light bulbs we use in the U.S. and you can see what happens to the metering business model and you can see how free you can be.

Agreed, but if conservatives

Agreed, but if conservatives oppose government subsidies, then to be consistent they must also oppose Fed subsidies with OUR currency to so-called free markets, which we both know don't really exist, which depreciates our currency value.
They want the best of both wrong arguments. They oppose subsides unless it's to their master at the banks, and they cite high food and oil prices which are a direct result of their refusing to regulate the banks and the Fed in the first place.
IF we truly had free markets the PEOPLE who are the owners of capital would be choosing the winners and losers of the bankrupt banking system by choosing where their capital went and at what yield and risk to reward they chose, instead of the Fed. The long and short of it is, we like to talk free markets, but they don't exist in this country anymore than real liberty exists here. The system is FIXED.

Good seriously

Good seriously think the opposition is to the new technology? Fiscal conservatives oppose the government subsidy, not the technology itself. The problem is that so many fiscal conservatives don't know that oil production is also heavily subsidized, and many of us are working hard to educate conservatives about that. And yes, obviously Big Oil is working hard to keep people misinformed. But the notion that fiscal conservatives oppose the technology itself, not the government giving millions to a large corporation, is a bit of a stretch.

Ron Paul 2012!

Ron Paul 2012!

Ron Paul 2012!

Ron Paul 2012!

CFLs suck so bad. It's the

CFLs suck so bad. It's the most unnatural, unpleasant light humans know how to generate. LEDs are so vastly superior to both incandescent and fluorescents in their wavelengths and consistency of light output (and thus its naturalness and usefulness) that as long as the dispersion is good on this new bulb, it will beat the pants off anything else out there regardless of the price. People do not spend that much on electricity for lights, anyway. It's mostly on air conditioning, heating, and their refrigerators. If the Phillips bulb is indeed cost completive too, it will sell like gangbusters to everyone. And yeah, your photo is wrong.

I do and I do and I do. But

I do and I do and I do. But they are most comfortable to have their Rush rush , a grilled cheese sandwich, and a few hours of Bejewelled Blitz and Farmville. There is nothing more to do.

Yeah conservatives thought

Yeah conservatives thought the early price of computers made computer technology stupid too. The sad thing about it is that they believe this rubbish. Then, after a few years when the price comes down, they all own flat screen TVs, computers, and these very light bulbs.

Technology will continue to be funded by tax dollars as a necessary condition of advancing technology, and technology will continue to progress. Those of us who understand these things will enjoy the benefits happily while conservatives will enjoy them angrily.

You didn't mention the

You didn't mention the further idiocy from Pirate Cove that the Volt could run out of charge - apparently they've never bothered to check that it has a gas engine. Just a reminder - read today that scientists have shown the decisions of the US Government are controlled by the least intelligent of voters, which is why we are in financial messes, environmental messes, and energy messes.

Debs, these new lightbulbs

Debs, these new lightbulbs are very different than the ones your referring to. Both are LED bulbs, that is true. The older white LED's operated in a color range of around 6000K to 7000K, which is a very brash, bluish-white color. The new ones, made by Philips as well as others, operate in the range of 2600K to 3000K, which gives that yellowish hue that looks very much like a standard incandescent light. I saw the new Philips bulbs at a home renovation store and was truly impressed with it.

Maybe if the cancervatives

Maybe if the cancervatives would just pull their heads outta their anuses and wipe the poop from their eyes, they might just be able to see the light and quit fighting the brighter days ahead. But some folks enjoy the dark you know.

Unfortunately, the

Unfortunately, the accompanying picture is of a CFL bulb, not an LED bulb.

The right-wing echo chamber

The right-wing echo chamber has for years maligned the cfl bulb. Rush Limpballs has lied over and over again that every time a cfl bulb breaks, a Hazmat team has to be called in to clean up. Why the manufacturers of cfl's haven't sued his fat butt for slander years ago is beyond me.

It is incredible that a

It is incredible that a newspaper credited with being legitimate would publish a story of such ineptitude, much less not having someone in their editorial department who could check out such simple math. It must be that the entire editorial staff is from the Tea Party. The math was even done with an extraordinarily high price on the LED.The actual price of the Philips 60 watt equivalent LED bulb at Home Depot is $16.97, not $50.00, and it uses approximately one fifth the wattage of the comparable incandescent. If the LED lasts as long as 30 incandescent bulbs it is $13 cheaper in replacement cost, and from the very beginning it uses 1/5 th of the electricity. The stupidity of the Republicans is amazing in trying to use this to berate Obama. But there are only two types of Republicans..........the wealthy, and their foot soldiers or ward heelers, the Tea Party, and the wealthy know how stupid their followers are. They can't even do third or fourth grade math.

Sorry but all this is moot.

Sorry but all this is moot. We have had the technology for FREE energy since 1962 it has been hidden away from you. The internal combustion engine was in reality obsolete in 1962. If I had the resources I could build one of these power plants. But the powers that be, being both progressive LEFT AND RIGHT would confiscate it and maybe even KILL me. I recently purchased a small flash light for $25. 220 lumen with a variable focal lens. It puts some spot lights to shame.

I'm wondering why, for an

I'm wondering why, for an article about LED lights, you choose a picture of a fluorescent light.

One that emits poison no

One that emits poison no less.

Exactly. Let the free

Exactly. Let the free markets, not government subsidies, create the product. This is misdirected , inefficient use of government funds. Wake up Democrats. The markets will create the products based on need. The CFL bulb came about without massive subsidies because people wanted energy saving bulbs. Big government at work.

Ah, yes, right wing "free

Ah, yes, right wing "free market" worship on display. We just don't get enough of it on the right wing TV media.

Well, I don't like the

Well, I don't like the harshness of these new lights. They hurt my eyes and make everything too bright/white. I like it better when they encase them in a bulb ... so you can clip a lamp shade on them. These reasons have nothing to be with math or being Republican. I am an Independent that doesn't like the current Republican ideas at all, esp. since the Tea Party came to town.

You really think the Tea

You really think the Tea party is for Republicans? The Tea party attacked them first they will be going after the Dems next. You really should do some home work when it comes to the Tea party. Check out tea party 365 and listen to founder David Webb and get past the mental block. The left and right have been playing two ends against the middle LONG before you were even born.

Freedom Works created the Tea

Freedom Works created the Tea Party to do battle with health care reform and to spread misinformation to the ignorant.

Lightbulb flashlights are

Lightbulb flashlights are quickly becoming a thing of the past. Why? LED's are more efficient, smaller, use smaller batteries and are more rugged. I hiked the Appalachian Trail with an LED headlamp that would never have been possible with bulbs. Oh, and now they cost far less than the old-fashioned flashlight. Wake up America, that light at the end of the tunnel is an LED!

Lightbulb flashlights are

Lightbulb flashlights are quickly becoming a thing of the past. Why? LED's are more efficient, smaller, use smaller batteries and are more rugged. I hiked the Appalachian Trail with an LED headlamp that would never have been possible with bulbs. Oh, and now they cost far less than the old-fashioned flashlight. Wake up America, that light at the end of the tunnel is an LED!

Not only that, but they

Not only that, but they missed the obvious point that mass production will inevitably bring down the per-unit cost. Anyone remember when it cost upwards of $500 for a single megabyte of computer memory or $400 for a 20 megabyte hard drive?

The last thing we should be

The last thing we should be doing is listening to the republicans. The sure road to slavery thru poverty. When your party can make poor people poorer than you know it is not a party. It becomes a business. Years ago they called them plantations.

Answer me this: If we grow

Answer me this: If we grow Government, increase spending every year, raise taxes on everyone ( by that I mean those who create wealth as opposed to those who acquire wealth) through embedded taxes which we all pay and don't even see (printing money with n0 backing other than your child's potential to make it). = the rising cost of everything without wage increases. Yea my friend spreading the wealth from you and me to the elite. Just look what this Admin did. nearly all the people in this Cabinet came from WALL street and stole $16 trillion from you and me and gave it to? The elitists. I want a Government with the MAXIMUM absence of collusion. The most PROGRESS this country ever did was when Government was OUT OF THE WAY.

Isn't it obvious? Republicans

Isn't it obvious?

Republicans poo poo any initiative that promotes green energy or greater conservation measures. They have been doing this since before the Reagan Administration.

Take a look back to the voting on the original Clean Air Act and the Clean Water Act. If the GOP had a majority at the time both of these historic actions would have gone down to defeat. Just imagine the condition of our nation had this happened. It would look like the movie Idiocracy.

What can we conclude? The entire Republican Party and many Democrats now represent the fossil fuel industry at the expense of the American people and the environment. This couldn't be any more clear. Since Citizens United this promises to only get worse.

"Fascism should more properly be called corporatism because it is the merger of state and corporate power." -- Benito Mussolini

Grow government, lol. Taxes

Grow government, lol.

Taxes have gone down, dummy.

And not a word about the criminal Bush Administration that was in power when all the theft actually took place.

And not a word about the Citizens United decision.

Of course the Obama Administration is under the influence of the banks/Wall Street. Who do you think owns this country and the politicians?

Yes, Obama is guilty of dereliction of duty for failing to prosecute Bush/Cheney and the Wall Street fraudsters.

A presidential candidate that wouldn't do the bidding of the 'powers that be' wouldn't have been allowed to win the election. Same with the 2012 election.

"Fascism should more properly be called corporatism because it is the merger of state and corporate power." -- Benito Mussolini

It's gratifying to hear

It's gratifying to hear someone hinting at the same thing I've been saying for a while. I see the Republicans as a bunch of well-to-do good ol' boys standing around bemoaning the good ol' days when they could still 'whup' uppity N******s. Now, they bully po' folk, illegals, and spics AND YET STILL CALL THEMSELVES GOOD CHRISTIANS.

You are too kind. It has been

You are too kind.

It has been years of sabotaging any progress on solar panels and greener bulbs because they do no t favor big oil and energy, freinds of Bushes and Reagans.

Same boondoggle they pulled in California by abolishig the local trains and building the freeways.

When will white working class Am,erica wake up and not vote against their best interests. Throw the bums out!

a C A P HACK [johnson] can

a C A P HACK [johnson] can not do math

Norman Allen's picture

Our light technology is way

Our light technology is way behind China. You can buy on the internet, delivered to the US, good LED lights at around $4. Our corporations and political system are becoming progressively outdated and some of it is already obsolete. Hiding our heads in the sand is not going to make the light and reality disappear. WAKE UP GOP and those who expect magical solutions to 21st century problems.

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