lamps. The Massachusetts law also establishes recycling targets for mercury-containing lamps that reached 70 percent by December 2011. Similarly, Maine requires (Chapter 850, Section 3A) any type of mercury-added lamp used in commercial, industrial, or residential applications to be treated as hazardous waste, which requires that all such lamps be treated, disposed, or recycled at an authorized destination facility. The State of Washington adopted legislation in 2010 (ESSB5543) that established a producer-financed product stewardship program for the collection, recycling, and disposal of mercury-containing lamps that must be implemented by 2013, after which no CFLs may be placed in the garbage.
Moreover, there is also concern about individual lamps breaking in residential use, and the EPA recommends special precautions in using and disposing of CFLs if they break (EPA, 2011a), which may alarm some consumers. The European Union’s Scientific Committee on Health and Environmental Risks (SCHER) calculated that ambient room exposures to mercury are in the range of or exceed the occupational exposure limit (100 μg/m3), but because that exposure limit is based on the safe level of lifetime exposure, the expert group concluded that adults would not be harmed by mercury exposures from a broken CFL lamp (SCHER, 2010). Various unconfirmed allegations in the media about other potential health impacts of CFLs, including migraine headaches, skin problems, epileptic seizures, and cancer, have further increased public anxiety about the “unfamiliar” CFLs (Ward, 2011).
Consumer confusion and uncertainty have also been impediments to CFL uptake (Sandahl et al., 2006). Some specific examples included uncertainty about whether CFLs could be used in existing luminaires, confusion caused by the use of different names to describe CFLs, the lack of ability to compare different lighting technologies in terms of watts and lumens, and the inability to communicate different color options (Sandahl et al., 2006; Broderick, 2007). Consumers were more comfortable with performance descriptions that were framed in terms of comparisons with existing, familiar products (Sandahl et al., 2006). More generally, there also is considerable inertia in the consumer demand for lighting, with many consumers displaying strong preferences for lamps that are most similar to the type they have been using previously. Thus, as the incandescent lamp is gradually phased out under the EISA 2007 timeline, many consumers will switch to halogen lamps rather than CFLs, even though CFLs generally provide a greater energy efficiency advantage.
Initial price has also been a problem for CFL uptake (LRC, 2003; Sandahl et al., 2006; APT, 2010). Even though CFLs save consumers money in the long-run because of lower energy use and longer lifespan, consumers are particularly sensitive to the higher up-front costs of CFLs, as is the case with many other energy efficient products, an effect described as the “energy paradox” of the very gradual diffusion of energy-conservation technologies (Jaffe and Stavins, 1994). The Government Accountability Office (GAO) estimates that the higher up-front cost of a CFL would be recovered in 2 to 7 months because of the higher energy efficiency and lower replacement costs of CFLs, but consumers are disproportionately influenced by the higher initial cost (Logan, 2008). Consumers apply a very high implicit discount rate—as high as 300 percent compared to the typical 2.5 to 10 percent used in most economic analyses—that deter consumer purchases of energy efficiency technologies that may cost more up-front but save money over their lifetime because of lower energy and replacement costs (Azevedo et al., 2009). This inflated consumer discount rate is attributed to a number of factors, including lack of knowledge about cost savings, disbelief about lifetime savings, and lack of expertise in addressing the time value of money (Azevedo et al., 2009).
In addition, substantial variation in CFL pricing, including the availability of inexpensive subsidized lamps, creates consumer confusion and beliefs that higher-priced CFLs are over-priced (Sandahl et al., 2006). Empirical studies indicate that many consumers are unaware of the lower operating costs of CFLs, as well as their environmental benefits (Di Maria et al., 2010; LRC, 2003). Better communication initiatives—such as clearer labels emphasizing lower lifetime costs and the trade-offs between initial and operating costs, as well as various types of consumer education campaigns, have been suggested as necessary to help consumers understand the energy saving and environmental benefits of CFLs (Di Maria et al., 2010).
Mandating technology change through legislation without any concerted effort to educate and prepare consumers, not unexpectedly, creates a political backlash, with the perceived shortcomings of the CFL serving as a key catalyst to much of the controversy and opposition. (See further discussion of this issue in Chapter 6 in the section “Role of Govern ment in Aiding Widespread Adoption.”) Some consumers are stockpiling incandescent lamps (O’Donnell and Koch, 2011), in many cases after trying and rejecting CFLs, and the public resistance to the switchover is likely to grow as more consumers become aware of the legislative consequences as they began to take effect on January 1, 2012. Some politicians have decried the “light bulb ban” and criticized the attempt to impose those “little, squiggly, pigtailed” CFLs on an unreceptive public (Rice, 2011). The EISA 2007 mandate has become a lightning rod for contested national political debates on the role of government in society and consumer freedom. Legislation has been introduced to overturn the phase-out of the incandescent lamp, but none has succeeded to date, although some have received significant and even majority support. For example, the U.S. House of Representatives passed an amendment in July 2011 that would prohibit DOE from spending any funds on implementing the lighting efficiency standards (Howell, 2011). As noted above, similar bills have been introduced in state legislatures in South Carolina and Texas (Simon, 2011).