In September, the European Union banned the sale of 100-watt incandescent light bulbs, with lawbreakers facing up to $70,000 in fines. Over the next few years, bans on lower-wattage bulbs kick in. In the United States, similar legislation comes into play in 2012. The idea is to kickstart the market for compact fluorescent lights (CFLs), which use less energy than conventional incandescents. Although CFLs present any number of problems (even beyond a much higher initial cost), governments all over the globe are determined to make them the new standard.
Invented in its modern form by Thomas Edison in 1879, the light bulb became synonymous with a brilliant idea. Now, it seems, it’s just one more symbol of a nanny state that increasingly dictates more choices in our public and private lives.