Advertisement
  1. News
  2. /
  3. Business

PolitiFact: Donald Trump has complaints about light bulbs. We fact-checked him.

Trump’s administration recently scrapped a rule that would have phased out incandescent light bulbs.
Energy-efficient LED light bulbs. (Times | 2008) [St. Petersburg Times]
Energy-efficient LED light bulbs. (Times | 2008) [St. Petersburg Times]
Published Sep. 17, 2019

After his administration scrapped a rule that would have phased out incandescent light bulbs, President Donald Trump jokingly complained that newer bulbs make him look orange.

His Energy Department’s move slows a yearslong push by Congress and past administrations to switch Americans to LED (light-emitting diode) bulbs and other lighting that uses less electricity.

While not citing LEDs specifically, Trump went on a bit of a rant about newer bulbs while speaking at the House Republicans’ annual retreat in Baltimore Sept. 12, making three claims worth checking out.

RELATED STORY: PolitiFact: Donald Trump exaggerates U.S. energy independence

President Donald Trump speaks at the 2019 House Republican Conference Member Retreat Dinner in Baltimore on Sept. 12. [JOSE LUIS MAGANA | AP]

On top of the bad lighting, Trump said they are expensive and are considered hazardous waste.

His claims have some truth — but only as they apply to compact fluorescent bulbs (typically spiral shaped), which are newer than incandescent but older than LEDs, which now dominate the market.

“The light bulb. People said, what’s with the lightbulb? I said, here’s the story. And I looked at it. The bulb that we’re being forced to use — No. 1, to me, most importantly, the light’s no good. I always look orange, and so do you; the light is the worst.” — Trump

Trump’s campaign organization didn’t provide us with any information to back up this statement.

But the light-quality criticism is overly broad.

Some compact fluorescent bulbs, which were created in 1976, don’t have good light quality, said Noah Horowitz, director of the Center For Energy Efficiency Standards, Climate & Clean Energy Program at the Natural Resources Defense Council.

But those fluorescent bulbs are being supplanted by LEDs. More than 1 billion LED bulbs have been purchased in the United States, and sales are growing as prices have decreased, Horowitz said.

Indeed, Trump’s Energy Department says that quality LEDs "offer comparable or better light quality than other types of lighting."

“Incandescents have a limited spectrum, whereas there are many options for LEDs, often making the quality of light better than incandescents,” said Mark Rea, professor at the Lighting Research Center at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in Troy, N.Y.

“But No. 2, it’s many times more expensive than that old incandescent bulb that worked very well.” — Trump

His statement was short-sighted.

His campaign cited a light bulb wholesaler website that said compact fluorescent bulbs “initially cost more than conventional bulbs but have the potential to save you money in the long run because of their longevity and efficiency.”

But LEDs are an even better bargain.

They can cost three times as much as incandescents, but they are five times more energy efficient and last 10 times as long, Rea said.

That means a savings of $25 to $100 or more over the 10- to 25-year lifetime of a new LED, said Horowitz.

“And very importantly, I don’t know if you know this, they have warnings. If it breaks, it’s considered a hazardous waste site; it’s gases inside.” — Trump

Again, he’s referring to compact fluorescent bulbs, not LEDs.

Compact fluorescent bulbs contain low levels of mercury, so the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency does consider them “household hazardous waste.” The agency recommends they be recycled, as some communities provide for, rather than thrown into the regular household trash.

Mercury is a liquid, but it can evaporate and become a vapor. At high exposure levels, it can be a health hazard.

Trump’s campaign pointed out that authorities in King County, Wash., issued a 15-step guide for cleaning up a broken fluorescent bulb. They include venting the room and using rubber gloves to put the broken pieces in a sealed container.

However, those recommendations are for compact fluorescent bulbs. In contrast, LEDs pushed by the Obama administration are mercury free and don’t contain any gases, Rea and Horowitz said. LEDs can be disposed of in the regular trash.

Talking about compact fluorescent bulbs is misleading, Rea said, because LEDs “are the only relevant lighting technology.”

YOU MIGHT ALSO LIKE

  1. Brian Davison is chief executive officer of EquiAlt, a Tampa-based real estate investment firm that faces two lawsuits, one from the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission and another from a half-dozen investors seeking class-action status, in U.S. District Court in Tampa. Equialt bought this Safety Harbor home in a tax deed sale. Times (2015)
  2. This June 19, 2015, file photo, shows the Federal Communications Commission building in Washington. The Federal Communications Commission on Friday, is proposing about $200 million in fines combined for the four major U.S. phone companies for improperly disclosing customers' real-time location. Location data makes it possible to identify the whereabouts of nearly any phone in the U.S.  (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik, File) [ANDREW HARNIK  |  AP]
  3. A new Publix in Pasco County will begin construction in August. [MARTHA ASENCIO RHINE  |  Times]
  4. Experts recommend employers outline policies about teleworking, travel and sick leave; monitor recommendations from the CDC and local health officials; and stock up on needed office supplies and other products that might be affected by a global manufacturing slowdown. [Times (2001)]
  5. Trader Peter Mazza works on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange Thursday, Feb. 27, 2020. (AP Photo/Craig Ruttle) [CRAIG RUTTLE  |  AP]
  6. Windhaven Insurance is closing its office in the Anchor Plaza office park and laying off 61 Tampa employees. (Google street view) [Google street view]
  7. Trader Peter Tuchman works on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange Thursday, Feb. 27, 2020. (AP Photo/Craig Ruttle) [CRAIG RUTTLE  |  AP]
  8. The antebellum mansions of Charleston's East Battery are a highlight of the city's historic district. SUSAN C. HEGGER  |  St. Louis Post Dispatch (2004) [SUSAN C. HEGGER  |  KRT]
  9. MICHELE MILLER |  Times
The apartment-building boom along the State Road 54 and SR 56 corridor in southern Pasco County has sparked a public debate among Pasco commission members wondering how many is too many when it comes to multifamily housing. On Tuesday, commissioners indicated they will kill the transportation subsidy for new apartment complexes.
  10. The sub station takes center stage at the new West Shore Publix supermarket opening on Thursday. [MARTHA ASENCIO RHINE  |  Times]
  11. Tampa Park Apartments is on property between downtown and Ybor City, at East Scott Street and Nuccio Parkway. [Times (2018)]
  12. Hyde House in Hyde Park Village on Tuesday, Feb. 25, 2020 in Tampa.  [MARTHA ASENCIO-RHINE  |  Times]
Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement