Lawmaker seeks ban on standard light bulbs

State Rep. Michael A. Kaelin, D-Lyndeborough, is working on a bill for the upcoming session that would outlaw the sale of incandescent bulbs by 2010.

Kaelin, an electrical engineering consultant whose 250-acre residence in Lyndeborough is completely off the grid, argues that those spiral florescent bulbs – which cost a little bit more – last 10 times as long and use a third the amount of electricity that incandescents use. And since residential illumination accounts for about 40 percent of an average homeowner’s usage, the ban would save consumers time and money.

The New Hampshire Retail Merchants Association hasn’t seen the bill or talked to Kaelin, but it has already sent around a notice to members to keep an eye on out for it.

The organization has opposed the ban of other products before, arguing that the state can’t force manufactures to come up with more environmentally acceptable alternatives, especially for something as ubiquitous as the common light bulb.

“Is there going to be an adequate manufacturer to supply our needs?” asked Curtis Barry, a lobbyist with the retail merchants. “We don’t want New Hampshire residents to be left in the dark.”

Or even worse, run outside the state for their lighting supplies.

Kaelin calls such dire warnings “ridiculous,” maintaining that two years is plenty of time for merchants to stock up on alternatives. And, he said, other states — California, Connecticut, North Carolina and Rhode Island – are considering bans of their own, though he doesn’t know of any state that has actually done the deed.

Kaelin also raised and answered another criticism of the ban: that fluorescent light bulbs contain mercury. But those bulbs contain a lot less mercury that would be used burning the coal to generate the extra power to light up a standard bulb, he said.

True, he said, selling a light bulb ban might be tough in the Live Free Or Die state. It might go down the same path as last year’s effort to outlaw the release of helium balloons into the air. That bill passed the House but was killed with the help of Senate Democrats, who feared they would be charged with unleashing the “balloon police” on a 5-year-old’s birthday party.

But Kaelin said that sentiment should be weighed against the “benefit of all the citizens of the state” in reducing electrical usage and producing a cleaner state.

“After all, New Hampshire is a tourist state,” he said. “One of the reasons people come here is because it has a cleaner environment.”