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Front Porch: In the dark on light bulb phase-out

The clickety clack sound of my fingers flying over the keyboard filled my home office as I sat hunched over my desk racing against another looming deadline.

I glanced down at my notes and then it happened. The room went dark.

Blinking, I rubbed my eyes. Was it a stroke? Or was my mother right? Had I’d gone blind from too much reading in dim light?

Turns out it was neither. The 60-watt bulb in my trusty gooseneck desk lamp had burned out. I headed to the closet to grab another, but like Old Mother Hubbard my cupboard was bare.

Muttering about the inconvenience, I scrounged around and came up with a 40-watter and went back to work, but not before texting my husband: “Need 60-, 75- and 100-watt light bulbs.”

A few minutes later my phone buzzed with this reply: “Good luck with that!”

Now, Derek is usually the most helpful and supportive of spouses, so taken aback by his reply, I picked up the phone and called him.

And that’s when I heard the news that I’d apparently ignored. As of Jan. 1, production of the 40- and 60-watt light bulbs is being phased out. Even worse, production of the 75- and 100- watt bulbs has already been discontinued.

“Is this some kind of government conspiracy?” I wailed.

Yes, it is actually. It’s part of a federal law banning their production in favor of more energy-friendly bulbs like halogen or fluorescent. Before you start cursing President Barack Obama or Al Gore, you should know we have George W. Bush to thank for this particular piece of governmental intrusion. It’s part of the Energy Independence and Security Act he signed in 2007.

If I’d been paying attention I would have stocked up while there was still light to see by, but I’m not alone in my ignorance. A recent study by Lutron revealed that fewer than 1 in 3 adults (just 28 percent) were aware of the planned phase-out.

For someone in the news business, I’ve been seriously out of touch on this issue. “Don’t you remember when Avista sent us that box of light bulbs?” Derek asked. “They were trying to get us to switch to more energy-efficient bulbs.”

Of course, I remember the box of squiggly bulbs, but I thought Avista was just sending us a gift for being such good customers.

Hastily, I filed my story and then took off on a light bulb shopping spree. I dispatched Derek to a few locales near his office, while I scoured the shelves closer to home. It reminded me of the Great Cascade Caper, when we stockpiled phosphate-enhanced dishwashing detergent before the phosphate ban went into effect in Spokane County.

I’d hoped to have similar success and be able to fill my cart with outlawed luminescence, but all I could find were a few measly 40-watters. Even worse, because the energy bill is a federal law, a quick drive to Idaho won’t satisfy my lighting needs.

My phone buzzed with a text from Derek. “Three-way okay?”

I replied. “We’d better still be talking about light bulbs.”

However, my sense of humor quickly faded that night when dimly we surveyed our pathetic stockpile. Neither of us had found a single 75- or 100-watt bulb.

The bright side is that CFL and LED bulbs are supposed to last longer than incandescent bulbs. However, we’ve long since burned through our box of freebies from Avista. And I hated the sickly hue of those twisty bulbs, anyway. You would too, if you had to transcribe my barely legible handwriting.

I long for the clean, white light of a fresh 60-watt bulb at my desk. I pine for the brilliant illumination of 100 watts beaming like a welcoming beacon from the dark corner of our living room.

Alas, the government has already exacted from me what it wanted. I’ve turned into a model energy conservationist. In order to make my precious stash of incandescence last as long as possible, I use my desk lamp sparingly, turning it off every time I leave the room for a cup of coffee or a bite of lunch. I’ve become my father, turning off lights in every room even while my kids are still in them. When they protest, I growl, “You’ve got windows. Do you think electricity is free?”

Well played feds. Well played.

Contact Cindy Hval at dchval@juno.com. Her previous columns are available online at spokesman.com/columnists. Follow her on Twitter at @CindyHval.