Right Wingers Attack Innovative $50 Light Bulb Because They Can’t Do Math

A slanted Washington Post story by Peter Whoriskey attacked the innovative $50 light bulb that won the Department of Energy’s $10 million L Prize for lighting innovation as being “costly,” “exorbitant,” and “too pricey” in comparison to a $1 incandescent bulb — based on faulty math. The Philips LED bulb, which is assembled in Wisconsin with computer chips made in California, is a technical breakthrough, with high-efficiency natural-color light. At no point does the article — which appeared online with the tendentious headline “Government-subsidized green light bulb carries costly price tag” — compare the lifetime cost of the super-efficient (10-watt), long-lasting (30-year) bulb with that of traditional 60-watt light bulbs. An accompanying infographic prepared by Patterson Clark and Bonnie Berkowitz compared costs, asserting that the lifetime cost of the $50 bulb plus electricity would end up being $5 more than traditional bulbs:

Washington Post graphic incorrectly claims lifetime cost of $50 LED bulb is $5 higher than traditional incandescents.

Unfortunately for the Washington Post’s credibility, the cost calculation was extremely wrong. Clark and Berkowitz’s assessment assumes that the kilowatt-hour price of electricity is $0.01, instead of actual average retail price of $0.12 and rising. This factor-of-ten error demolishes the entire premise of Whoriskey’s article. ThinkProgress Green has prepared a corrected graph, based on a low-ball estimate of $0.10/kWh electricity:

A corrected version of the Washington Post lightbulb cost comparison shows $50 LED bulb over $100 cheaper than incandescents. Prepared by ThinkProgress Green.

Instead of issuing a correction, the Washington Post silently excised the false section of their infographic online.

Whoriskey’s attack on the innovative, money-saving light bulb was promoted by the Drudge Report and picked up by right-wing blogs as further evidence that American clean-tech innovation is an Obama boondoggle. At Michelle Malkin‘s blog, Doug Powers complains about the “$10 million in prize money taxpayers are on the hook for in order to pay a company to create light bulbs people either can’t afford or won’t want.” Gateway Pundit screams: “It’s an Obama World… Gas Reaches $5 a Gallon & “Green” Light Bulbs Cost You $50 Each.” “The same people who can afford to drive a Volt (and have the limo pick them up when it runs out of charge) will be the ones purchasing this idiocy,” Pirate’s Cove blathers. American Enterprise Institute scholar Kenneth Green blasted the “Ludicrous Prize” as one of “epic energy-failures.” At Ricochet, George W. Bush speechwriter Troy Senik asks, “What lost? A bulb powered by the hoofbeats of unicorns?”

One of the strangest phenomena of modern-day politics is the right-wing antagonism toward American clean-energy manufacturing, a consequence of the fossil-fuel industry’s stranglehold on our nation’s conservatives. The Washington Post shouldn’t be aiding and abetting this ugly trend.

(HT Daily Kos)


The Washington Post has updated its infographic, showing the huge cost savings of the LED bulb. The corrected infographic will run in Monday’s print edition.

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