Something of a debate has developed on the venerable Today programme about light bulbs. It kicked off when Tesco boss Sir Terry Leahy appeared yesterday plugging a £25 million investment in a sustainable consumption institute. It's in collaboration with the University of Manchester which, according to Tesco's press release, will "explore vital areas of research such as how customers can be empowered and incentivised to buy green products and services, how business can adapt to meet customer needs and how we can train the next generation of environmental leaders and experts."
Bulbs entered the picture when presenter Sarah Montague pointed out the £25 million was all very well, but why not spend it on practical measures that could be taken now, such as stocking only energy efficient bulbs. Leahy's excuse was that many households couldn't accommodate such bulbs, although, as we've repeatedly pointed out, they're now available in a multitude of forms. Maybe it's retailers' reluctance to stock a wider range that causes people to think they only come in one size? Leahy also insisted on referring to CFLs as "the new form of light bulb" - that would be 'new' as in having been available for 30 years.
His other quibble was that there simply weren't enough good bulbs being produced to ditch the bad ones. However, entire countries have banned inefficient bulbs so they must have plans to get CFLs from somewhere. Still, it explains why Tesco are so low down in our light bulb league table.
Then this morning, in the interests of balanced reporting, Frances Galvanoni of the Energy Saving Trust was given a chance to rebuke Leahy's statements. She explained that many people's objections to CFLs boils down to aesthetics, and that if incandescents are phased out technology in efficient lighting will advance further and faster. (You can hear both editions online for the next seven days.)
There's now a lively debate in progress on the Today message board (if you want to join in, you'll need to register) and that the bulbs issue is getting such publicity is all great stuff, but it's incredible that we're still having this debate about energy efficiency. Environmental issues aside, saving energy saves you money - why would anyone argue with that?