The market speaks – Germans hoarding “climate-killing” light bulbs

At this point, just about everyone in the industrialized world has had the opportunity to try out a few of the compact fluorescent bulbs. You may have your opinion on the twisty bulbs, but some Germans are betting a market for traditional bulbs will continue to exist.

Beginning Sept. 1, the European Union will start its phase out of traditional light bulbs in favor of the new compact fluorescent (CF) bulbs. They start with banning the 100 watt bulb and work their way down to lower wattage bulbs and “burn out” all of them by the fall of 2012.

As the EU messes with the laws of supply and demand, the market reacts.

Hardware stores and home-improvement chains in Germany are seeing massive increases in the sales of the traditional bulbs. Obi reports a 27 percent growth in sales over the same period a year ago. Hornbach has seen its frosted-glass light bulb sales increase by 40-112 percent. When it comes to 100-watt bulbs, Max Bahr has seen an 80 percent jump in sales, while the figure has been 150 percent for its competitor Praktiker.

“It’s unbelievable what is happening,” says Werner Wiesner, the head of Megaman, a manufacturer of energy-saving bulbs. Wiesner recounts a story of how one of his field representatives recently saw a man in a hardware store with a shopping cart full of light bulbs of all types worth more than €200 ($285). “That’s enough for the next 20 years.”

And hoarding doesn’t seem to be just a customer phenomenon. The EU law only forbids producing and importing incandescent bulbs but does not outlaw their sale. “We’ve stocked up well,” a spokesman for Praktiker told SPIEGEL.

Will the EU end up outlawing the sale of these bulbs? Will they flat out outlaw the use of the bulbs? Hah … you’re thinking they would never do that dontcha?

The way I figure, it would cost me a couple of hundred dollars to collect my own stash of light bulbs that would last 25 years.

I might just do it to tick off the government and the environmental wackos.

I’m envisioning naval blockades with cargo ships full of climate-killing bulbs circling offshore looking to offload the banned cargo. How about outlaw bulb-runners driving trailer-pulling dune buggies with customized soft-suspensions to protect the bulbs as they traverse the dirt roads of Mexico’s Baja skirting the law to get the bulbs into southern California?

Somebody’s gotta write a song.

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Steve McGough

Steve's a part-time conservative blogger. Steve grew up in Connecticut and has lived in Washington, D.C. and the Bahamas. He resides in Connecticut, where he’s comfortable six months of the year.


  1. Dottie on July 30, 2009 at 2:28 pm

    I think I'll go to Wally World tomorrow.  ;-D

  2. LOIS on July 30, 2009 at 3:25 pm

    How could any rational human being think the energy saving bulbs are going to save anything!! If they break you have to call HAZMAT and look out for the bulb police if you throw them in the trash…of course 10 yrs from now we'll have to spend thousands of dollars to clean the mercury from the dumps…Big Brother watching out for our welfare . How do I invest in German hardware stores?

  3. sammy22 on July 31, 2009 at 2:21 am

    On the other hand, a town in Germany has installed a system to turn on and off the town's streetlights. If you are going out and want the lights on, you use your cell phone to send a signal to turn the lights on. In places where (electric) energy is REALLY expensive, technology is used to use energy "wisely".

  4. ViolaIncognita on July 31, 2009 at 8:43 am

    Have you ever had a compact fluorescent bulb burn out on you? You walk in a room and there is this horrible burning smell. It's hard to breath. Once you've figured out that your house isn't actually on fire, you have to figure out how to get rid of the persistent stench.


    How many people does it take to change a compact fluorescent bulb? As many people you can muster to give you advice and room fans.

  5. lighthouse10 on August 6, 2009 at 8:31 am

    Agree about the craziness of this ban – for any reason given.

    It's hardly surprising about the German (and other European) hoarding…

    Europeans  like  Americans  choose to buy ordinary light bulbs around 9 times out of 10 (light industry data 2007-8)

    Banning what people WANT gives the supposed savings – no point in banning an impopular product!

    If new LED lights -or improved CFLs- are good,

    people will buy them – no need to ban ordinary light bulbs (little point).

    If they are not good, people will not buy them – no need to ban ordinary light bulbs (no point).

    The arrival of the transistor didn't mean that more energy using radio tubes had to be banned… they were bought less anyway.

    All lights have advantages….

    The ordinary simple light bulb has for many people a pleasing appearance, it responds quickly with bright broad spectrum light, is easy to use with dimmers and other equipment, can come in small sizes, and has safely been used for over 100 years.

    100 W+ equivalent brightness is a particular issue – difficult and expensive with both fluorescents and LEDS – yet such incandescent bulbs are  first in line for banning in both USA and the EU


    Since when does Europe or North America need to save on electricity?

    There is no energy shortage.

    Note that if there was an energy shortage, the price rise would make people buy more efficient products anyway – no need to legislate for it.

    Consumers – not politicians – pay for the energy used.

    Certainly it is good to let people know how they can save energy and money – but why force them to do it?


    Most cars have emissions.

    But does your light bulb give out any gases?

    Power stations might not either:

    In Sweden and France, as in Washington state, practically all electricity is emission-free, while around half of it is in many European countries and North American states.

    Why should emission-free households be denied the use of lighting they obviously want to use?

    Low emission households will increase everywhere, since emissions will be reduced anyway through the planned use of coal/gas processing technology or energy substitution.

    Also, the savings amounts  can be questioned for many reasons:

    For a referenced list of reasons against light bulb bans, see onwards

    More about the strange EU and industrial politics behind the ban

     Even if a reduction in use was needed, then taxation to reduce consumption would make more sense since government can use the income to reduce emissions (home insulation schemes, renewable projects etc) more than any remaining product use causes such problems.

    People can still buy what they want, unlike with bans.

    However taxation on electrical appliances is hardly needed either, and is in principle wrong for similar reasons to bans.

  6. PatRiot on August 7, 2009 at 5:56 pm

    Australia banned incandescents not too long ago. Now the EU.. Can we be far behind? Oh by the way, there is mercury in the florescents.. Theywill need special handling.

    Health care: Britain, Australia and Canada pushed for socialized medicine….now the US. I see a pattern here.

    Guns taken from law abiding citizens in Britain, Canada and Australia… They experimented with New Orleans gun owners by taking them illegally.

    We the "entertained" generation must become the "engaged" generation.

  7. gillie28 on August 11, 2009 at 2:02 am

    I can confirm this story to be true because my mother (nameless) in another European country (namelss – well, many of you know where) has been doing the same thing since this was proposed by the EU. 

    Apart from the danger of the mercury vapour in these bulbs, they also do not fit many older models of lights, such as chandeliers.  Did I say MERCURY VAPOUR???  Yep, go figure how THAT will improve our standard of life….oh, I forgot, health care reform will take care of the millions of Americans with a new form of mercury poisoning.

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