Light Bulbs and Last-Ditch Climate Solutions

[Via Andrew Sullivan](, I'm reminded that a lot of conservative-minded people are annoyed about the impending switch away from incandescent bulbs. Their argument is that the government is taking away small freedoms and the power of the market by restricting bulb choice. At Bloomberg Views, [Virginia Postrel suggested](

> What matters, from a public policy perspective, isn’t any given choice but the total amount of electricity I use (which is itself only a proxy for the total emissions caused by generating that electricity). If they're really interested in environmental quality, policy makers shouldn’t care how households get to that total. They should just raise the price of electricity, through taxes or higher rates, to discourage using it.

I believe that when policy makers tried to do just that by implementing a market-based system that would have pushed up electricity prices to reflect the price of carbon emissions, conservatives called it a "carbon tax" and shot it down. Without a market-wide system to realign incentives towards energy efficiency, lawmakers are left with blunt tools like light bulb bans or [tricky source-based emissions regulation]( that no one thinks are the best answer to this problem. But for the people in Washington who do believe in climate change and are trying to do something about it, at this point, these less-than-optimal solution are the only option.