General Electric is shutting down a light bulb factory in Virgina because the incandescent bulbs it manufactures will be “contraband” in 2014. It is opening a new plant in China to build new, greener light bulbs.
Big deal, that’s globalization for you, right? Well, not exactly. Not when GE is involved reports Tim Carney at the Washington Examiner.
General Electric was prominent lobbyist for outlawing incandescent light bulbs in favour of compact fluorescent bulbs. The latter of the two bulbs are supposed to be better for the environment (even though they are filled with mercury.) Once the government came around to GE’s way of thinking, GE decided to shut down its incandescent plant in Winchester, Virginia. Now these workers are out of their jobs, and naturally they’re not happy about it:
The workers don’t buy the green arguments, pointing to the mercury gas that’s in the fluorescents. “It’s illegal to dump mercury in the river, but not in the landfill,” two of them say in unison—it’s become a dark joke at the factory. Robert Pifer, who will also be laid off in July if he doesn’t find a new job by then, has an explanation for GE’s support of the light-bulb law and its shift to the more expensive fluorescents. “Are they not just trying to force-feed people stuff they don’t want to buy?” So, GE gets environmentalist brownie points for selling “clean” light bulbs, and they also get to charge more for their bulbs. But there’s another advantage—they save on labour with fluorescents, because they make the fluorescents in China. Not only are wages lower there, but so are the regulatory burdens, both environmental and labour. The Times of London recently reported, “Large numbers of Chinese workers have been poisoned by mercury, which forms part of the compact fluorescent lightbulbs.” CFLs, however, are probably not the light bulb of the future. Right before it started lobbying for a federal light bulb law, GE announced that it would start making high-efficiency incandescent by 2010. GE doesn’t say where it will manufacturer its high-efficiency incandescent bulb, but all signs suggest it won’t be here in Winchester. Read the whole story>
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