Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Engineering Thinking: "Baloney Alert: More PolitiFact Nonsense" (Updated)

The lights are on but the facts aren't home.

Ed Walker over at Engineering Thinking points out a common tactic employed by PolitiFact. Just as they claim ObamaCare is not a government takeover of healthcare because the government doesn't "own the hospitals and the doctors are [not] public employees.", PolitiFact has determined that the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007 doesn't ban incandescent light bulbs.

Walker writes-
In this case, here are the facts: the government has not literally banned incandescent light bulbs, true. But it has passed regulations requiring light bulbs to have efficiencies that are impossible for them to achieve. There is no technology on the horizon that will allow incandescent bulbs to achieve that efficiency. Manufacturers of incandescent light bulbs have reacted accordingly by shutting down production. Therefore — bottom line — the government has indeed, in essence, banned the use of incandescent light bulbs.
This type of semantic hairsplitting is common for PolitiFact. As Walker notes-
PolitiFact often likes to twist and distort the context of statements, in effect gerrymandering them into one of their preferred liberal themes.
Kudos to Walker for pointing it out. You can read our previous review of Engineering Thinking here. And as always, check out Walker's blog for more.



Bryan adds:

I have one reservation about Walker's analysis, stemming from the fact that at least one of PolitiFact's stories--one for which I had a review in the works--provides an example of an incandescent bulb that meets the new efficiency standards.  The new bulb apparently borrows some halogen bulb technology to produce a bulb similar in significant ways to the traditional incandescent bulb.  Therefore it may overstate matters to say that incandescent bulbs cannot be made to meet the new standards.  On the other hand, the fact is that the traditional halogen bulb cannot meet the standard without significantly increasing the cost of the bulbs.  I solicited  his view of the Philips EcoVantage bulb, the one given as an example in the PolitiFact story:
A halogen lamp is a form of incandescent lamp that has been modified to achieve higher efficiency. The efficiency is achieved by various tradeoffs, including higher cost, more intense output, and much much higher temperature. I do not consider them suitable for standard incandescent bulb replacements (they are better for spot lighting, such as to illuminate artwork), and will not use them in standard fixtures because of the increased fire hazard. Suggesting that they are drop-in replacements is, in my opinion, irresponsible.
Walker's suggestion that PolitiFact's logic is amiss is accurate.  The term "incandescent bulb" has at least two senses in play.  One stands for the traditional bulb.  The other stands for any bulb making use of a glowing filament.  PolitiFact equivocates by ruling on a statement justified under the former meaning by applying the latter meaning.  I appreciate Jeff emphasizing that point with his comparison to PolitiFact's imperial semantic edict with respect to "government takeover."

Note how Philips handles the term "Incandescent" in the EcoVantage brochure:


The second column represents the traditional incandescent bulb.  That's how people use the word.

The EcoVantage bulb comes with a few warnings, illustrating Walker's point about tradeoffs:
Warnings Before using bulb, see operating instructions. Adherence to the operating instructions will reduce the risk of personal injury or fire. The filament capsule contained inside this glass bulb is pressurized, operates at high temperature and could unexpectedly shatter. Should the outer bulb break, particles of extremely hot glass could be discharged into the fixture and/or the surrounding environment, thereby creating a risk of personal injury or fire.



Update 6/5/2011 (better late than never):

Commenter Panta Rei left some valuable information worth appending to the body of the post:

All current incandescents, including Halogens etc, are to be banned by
2020 (USA) and 2016 (EU)

The USA 2007 legislation essentially has 2 components, based on 2012 and 2020

As Ed Walker says, it is in practice a ban, because of the eventual CFL equivalence mandated.

1 comment:

  1. All current incandescents, including Halogens etc, are to be banned by
    2020 (USA) and 2016 (EU)

    The USA 2007 legislation essentially has 2 components, based on 2012 and 2020

    As Ed Walker says, it is in practice a ban, because of the eventual CFL equivalence mandated.

    What is banned and when - and where are the counter-proposals?
    http://ceolas.net/#li01inx
    US, Canada, EU, Australia regulations
    Canada Government's 2 year delay proposal (to 2014)
    Updates on US House/Senate, S. Carolina, Georgia, Texas, Minnesota and
    Arizona bills attempting to stop the ban

    ReplyDelete