Ban on Incandescent Light Bulbs Producing Massive Energy Savings

I was wr-r-r-r-r-ong.


NYT (“America’s Light Bulb Revolution“):

Over the past decade, traditional incandescent bulbs, those distinctive glass orbs with glowing wire centers, have been rapidly replaced by more energy-efficient lighting. The shift has driven down electricity demand in American homes, saving consumers money and cutting greenhouse gas emissions.

The energy savings are expected to grow as highly efficient and increasingly inexpensive LED bulbs continue to replace older lights. But energy efficiency advocates worry that the Trump administration could slow the pace of this lighting revolution.

Last month, the Department of Energy said it would withdraw an Obama-era regulation that nearly doubled the number of light bulbs subject to energy-efficiency requirements. (The chart above shows changes for basic, pear-shaped bulbs that are regulated by current rules. Other bulb styles, including globe, candelabra and reflector bulbs, as well as outdoor lighting, are not included.)

After climbing for decades, electricity use by American households has declined over the past eight years.

“That’s a staggering change,” said Lucas Davis, an energy economist at the Haas School of Business, part of the University of California, Berkeley.

The economic recession in the late 2000s contributed to an initial dip in electricity demand, but as the economy improved, lighting and other energy-efficiency improvements continued to drive down household electricity use.

Congress established the first national light bulb efficiency standards in 2007, which were signed into law by President George W. Bush. Starting in 2012, the law required new light bulbs to use 28 percent less power than existing incandescent lights — essentially ending the sale of the older, inefficient bulbs.

A new generation of halogen bulbs initially replaced traditional incandescents, but, more recently, sales of highly efficient LEDs have grown as their prices have fallen.

The switch to more efficient lighting has been relatively rapid, Dr. Davis said, because of the short lifespan of traditional light bulbs. While consumers may replace an old refrigerator or dishwasher with an energy-saving model once a decade, incandescent bulbs last only about a year before they need replacing.

And that replacement yields huge relative savings.

“When you take out incandescent light bulbs and replace them with LEDs, the amount of electricity you consume goes down more than 80 percent,” Dr. Davis said. “There’s nothing else like that.”

When the effective ban on old-style light bulbs was about to take effect toward the end of 2011, we posted on the topic several times here at OTB. Not surprisingly, we opposed the policy. At least in terms of impact, we were wrong.

Not only has the energy savings been substantially more robust but, more importantly, the downside for consumers was not nearly so dire as predicted.

For example, in a May 2011 posting titled “Light Bulb Ban Looms,” I observed,

So, essentially, with next to zero command from the people, our government has banned a vital technology that’s been with us for over a century . . . with no suitable replacement in existence? Whose bright idea was that?

That new technology was eventually going to improve the product and the economies of scale created by the mandated elimination of old-style bulbs was obvious. Indeed, I noted that via both an excerpt from an AP story and my observation,

It’s wonderful that necessity is literally becoming the mother of invention here. But most of us have dozens of light bulbs in our homes, some of which are rarely used. Currently, powerful, long-lasting bulbs that produce beautiful light can be had for about a buck each. We’re really supposed to replace them with unproven technology that’s 50 times as expensive?

But prices wound up plummeting. The new bulbs are still quite a bit more expensive than the old ones but it’s 2-3 times, not 50.

More importantly, the technology improved with incredible speed. Compact fluorescents now produce much warmer light and without the flicker and wait times of old.  And LEDs, which were awful in 2011, are now the gold standard.

That we can achieve necessary energy conservation and reduce pollution through massive regulation and investment by the government is behind projects like the Green New Deal. I’m highly skeptical about many of the specific proposals there and find some of them, like the notion that we should eliminate air traffic, laughably stupid.

But the light bulb example shows that, sometimes, the only way to break inertia is through government action. Only the most well-heeled and energy-conscious consumers would have switched away from the old incandescent bulbs of their own volition. And, without a critical mass of consumers forced to seek out new technologies, there simply wouldn’t have been an incentive for the private sector to innovate, much less achieve the economies of scale that made the $50 LEDs of 2011 the $2 or so they are today. (Indeed, Amazon is currently selling a 24-pack for under a buck apiece; no, it’s not an affiliate link.)

I tend to be skeptical of government planning in the technology sector, for a variety of good reasons. Most importantly, governments often guess wrong and wind up dropping massive investments betting on the wrong horse. Still, it makes sense to heavily subsidize R&D in exchange for either limited intellectual property rights or other guarantees of lower consumer costs on the backend for technologies that break out.

FILED UNDER: *FEATURED, Economics and Business, Environment, Global Climate Change, Government, Science & Technology, US Politics
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is a Security Studies professor at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.

Comments

  1. Michael Reynolds says:

    I was right there with you, James. Light is a big thing for me, probably the single thing I pay the most attention to in the home. I hate fluorescent. It reminds me of jail. (Sorry, I had to add that just to piss off @Pearce). How much did I hate this law? I stockpiled 60W ‘dawn pink’ light bulbs. And I still use some, but more and more it’s LED’s and later gen fluorescent. I was also wrong.

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  2. MattBernius says:

    But the light bulb example shows that, sometimes, the only way to break inertia is through government action.

    James, thanks for openly writing that. And this reflection on getting this one wrong.

    It’s that honestly and open reflection that continues to separate OTB and keeps many of us coming back. It also causes us, or at least me, to more seriously consider your perspective when you post a contrarian opinion.

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  3. Mikey says:

    I was right there with you in 2011 too, and just as wrong. I also stockpiled 100W incandescent bulbs at first, because I wasn’t going to install a bunch of shitty CFLs. But the now-cheap LED bulbs changed my mind, too. I absolutely despise the CFLs but I really like the LED bulbs. I’ve replaced just about every bulb in the house, and a couple of ceiling fixtures, with them.

  4. Mikey says:

    Here’s some Social D for everyone…

    Social Distortion – I Was Wrong

  5. Jax says:

    @Mikey: LOL….I sang that in my head when I read the headline, too.

  6. grumpy realist says:

    I’ve been gradually changing over to LED bulbs from CFLs from incandescents as the individual bulbs die. The problem with CFLs seems to be they have a horrible lifetime if you keep turning them on and off (a.k. a. in the bathroom.)

    Incandescents are really only good if you want to have heat as well as light. Useful in traffic signals in the winter up north, not that great elsewhere. If any of the readers here or their sisters ever used a Kenmore Easy-Bake toy oven (which actually did bake things) the heat source for the oven was a 100 W bulb.

  7. Mikey says:

    @grumpy realist:

    The problem with CFLs seems to be they have a horrible lifetime if you keep turning them on and off (a.k. a. in the bathroom.)

    That was my experience, too. They are supposed to last a long time, but they didn’t last any longer than incandescents, despite costing more and making everyone in the room look like a shambling corpse.

    LED bulbs actually DO last a long time and provide a pleasant, sunny light I find appealing. And they’re available in a range of color temperatures.

  8. Teve says:

    while lighting isn’t a huge fraction of our energy expenditure, what people don’t realize is that you pay for waste heat from inefficient lights twice. You pay to generate the waste heat, then you pay for your HVAC system to move the waste heat outside.

    LCDs vs tube TV’s also helped I’ll bet.

  9. wr says:

    @Michael Reynolds: You and JJ are going to be banned from the internet if you go around admitting you were ever wrong about something.

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  10. MarkedMan says:

    I too hate the too-white look of traditional fluorescents. But it’s an interesting aside that this turns out to be cultural. The very bright, very white type of bulb is very popular in a lot of countries. For example, in Asia your average family restaurant is very brightly lit with very white light, on purpose. It’s only the places that attract a lot of westerners that have what we think of as a warm glow. Or the dives that have something to hide.

  11. MarkedMan says:

    I suspect that future generations of contractors will marvel that we allowed bulbs so hot they would fry your skin to be housed in metal enclosures inserted into wooden framing.

  12. Tyrell says:

    @Mikey: I have noticed the same problem as far as life. Those wild claims of several years of life have not panned out.

  13. Eric Florack says:

    Just a thought… Doesn’t your admission of getting this one wrong depends rather heavily on that means getting it right as regards “massive” energy-savings?

    We’ve seen these kind of figures altered enough to fit the talking points before.

    Global warming oops
    Global cooling oops
    Climate change

    Presidential polls

    The effectiveness of ethanol in gasoline

    Forgive me, but I remain skeptical

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  14. Kit says:

    This might come off as sour and self-satisfied, but this is the issue where I finally started to view conservatives as a bunch of whiners. Politics starts at home, as a kid, and for me there was something about not wasting food, about shutting off the lights and TV, that struck a conservative note, even in the land of plenty. Nowadays my parents would think it un-American not to drive an SUV to the corner store. Gotta have it my way! Sacrifice and planning ahead is for libtards. And even though I seemed to have lived through this change in outlook, I’ll be damned if I can say just when it happened.

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  15. James Joyner says:

    @Kit:

    Politics starts at home, as a kid, and for me there was something about not wasting food, about shutting off the lights and TV, that struck a conservative note, even in the land of plenty.

    I’ve generally speaking done all those things. While I wasn’t a fan of Jimmy Carter during his presidency (although I’ve warmed to him some since) I’ve generally set my thermostat at 72 in the summer and 68 in the winter–and wear sweaters or the like at home when it’s cold. But that’s a different thing than a government mandate on such things.

    In 2011, I think I would have been fine with some sort of government incentive towards buying the newfangled bulbs. But I was more than a bit skeptical about forcing us to buy expensive bulbs that weren’t ready for prime time.

  16. Teve says:

    Nowadays my parents would think it un-American not to drive an SUV to the corner store. Gotta have it my way! Sacrifice and planning ahead is for libtards. And even though I seemed to have lived through this change in outlook, I’ll be damned if I can say just when it happened.

    the more conservative my elderly Kentucky relatives get, the more they just seem like petulant toddlers.

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  17. Kathy says:

    These days when relaxing at home I mostly spend time at the computer or one of my phones, when not watching TV. Mostly i read news stories saved for reading offline in an app.

    But years ago I used to read paper books (I still read books, but mostly e-books and audio books). early compact fluorescent were “cold” white light, which is terrible for reading. The “soft” yellow light, usually called “warm” white light for some reason, more closely approximates sunlight, so it’s great for reading.

    My challenge, then, was finding the right color CF light bulbs, and that wasn’t easy. But what drew me wasn’t so much the energy savings, though they are real, but their durability. There’s nothing more annoying than a light bulb blowing out a few minutes before bedtime, when you’re reading a book. Having this happen far less often is priceless.

  18. Scott F. says:

    @MattBernius:

    James, I agree with Matt that this kind of frank accounting of how your mind can be changed is the fundamental reason I have OTB in my regular cycle of blogs to read. I really appreciate your openness to challenging ideas.

    I especially appreciate the connection you’ve made here from the shift you made on lightbulbs to the Green New Deal. Considering that the GND at this point is only a resolution that calls us to “break inertia through government action” and not any specific policy, I would encourage you to resist any impulse to take disingenuous interpretations of GND objectives and use them to diminish and close minds to the great potential that lies in incentivizing commercial innovation in clean energy.

    For a primary example, the GND language on air travel is:

    …build out high-speed rail at a scale where air travel stops becoming necessary…

    Any honest reading of this clause would give one the understanding that the intent is to replace short leg, continental air travel with rail wherever possible. You know, like what you find in Europe. Yes, it would be laughably stupid to aim for the complete elimination of air traffic. Thank goodness no one associated with the Green New Deal is suggesting anything like that.

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  19. Kathy says:

    For the record, the vast majority of my CFLs last a very long time. the one exception was a cheapo, no-name brand I picked up once at Costco. Those blinked out after a few weeks.

    I don’t usually turn them on and off much. but then I’m also adept at moving around well-known places in the dark. For instance, every morning I manage to get up and walk to the kitchen without any lights. I’m also comfortable using the bathroom in the middle of the night with only the phone screen for illumination.

  20. reid says:

    @Scott F.: I was going to point that out, too. I find it frustrating when the usual suspects knowingly twist words and meaning in order to portray people like AOC as wacko communists. They want to ban air travel and hamburgers! Have to keep feeding that libtard hate.

  21. @James: Since no one has noted this: nice Fonzie reference (said the man of a certain age).

  22. Teve says:

    @reid: I have relatives who honestly believe that Al Gore invented global warming. They have zero science education, and no understanding of the fact that it’s basic chemistry, and scientists have been figuring it out for a hundred and fifty years. Svante Arrhenius in 1897 was like, you know, we’re not burning enough carbon right now to really make a huge difference, but at some point…

    When Exxon scientists and executives were meeting in the late 1970s to figure out what to do about this existential problem to their business, and the executives figured there were enough low-info people that with a few million bucks’ worth of propaganda they could confuse the issue and postpone regulation indefinitely, these were exactly the kind of people they were counting on.

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  23. reid says:

    @Teve: It’s a display of greed that’s rather disgusting given the stakes involved.

  24. al Ameda says:

    A few days ago I had a conversation with a family member (FM) on this very subject, and it went like this:
    FM: We installed new lighting when we did our remodel, we were required to put in LED.
    Me: Well, looks good to me.
    FM: Yeah, thanks, but, I was ticked off, I mean, yeah there are energy savings, but why can’t I decide and buy what I want? Why is the government forcing this on me?
    Me: Encouraging energy savings is an important objective of government.
    FM: Encourage all you want but leave me the choice.
    Me: So, given a choice and good information about types of lighting would you have done this lighting?
    FM: No.
    Me: {{{thought bubble}}} {{{this is why I’m not a libertarian}}}

  25. Teve says:

    @reid: people like Rex tillerson and the Kochs, people in their later years with hundreds of millions or billions of dollars in the bank, who are still hell-bent on burning up the globe in order to sell a few more hydrocarbons and make a few more millions, should be seen for what they are, which is deranged psychopaths.

  26. Kit says:

    @al Ameda: As Thomas Jefferson had it:

    If a nation expects to be ignorant and free, in a state of civilization, it expects what never was and never will be.

  27. James Pearce says:

    @Michael Reynolds:

    It reminds me of jail. (Sorry, I had to add that just to piss off @Pearce).

    Huh. It reminds me of your most recent work, The Ballad of Avoiding Gaol.

    (I don’t miss incandescent light bulbs at all.)

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  28. de stijl says:

    @Steven L. Taylor:

    Perfectamundo!

  29. de stijl says:

    James Joyner, here is why you have a savvy and bright commentariat. You admit to being wrong in your past ideas / writings. That’s surprisingly quite rare.

    This feeds directly into the “Where Have All Of The Commenters Gone” thread.

    Being open to error is essential to growth.

    I’ve always thought you were a decent person. This post confirms that.

  30. grumpy realist says:

    @Scott F.: The problem in the US is that most cities are far apart enough that air travel is really the only way to go. We don’t have the density of population in most places to make high-speed trains cost efficient except in certain corridors (and then it’s difficult getting the land for the trains.)

  31. Kit says:

    @grumpy realist: That’s true but it’s not really the right way to look at it. Some routes are more popular. Far more popular. That’s the low-hanging fruit. Does this plan make sense at that level?

  32. SC_Birdflyte says:

    @Michael Reynolds: I’m with you in not liking the glare of fluorescents (in my case, too many years in cubicles). But LEDs are changing the game.

  33. Matt says:

    @grumpy realist: I have two painted turtle enclosures and I used incandescent lamps for heat/light. Now I have to buy “special” lamps at an inflated price.. 🙁

    My CFLs are mostly still around years after the fact. As stated earlier what kills CFLs is repeated on off switching. The ones that survive years are the ones that are left on for long period of time and aren’t in small enclosures where heat can kill them.

    I prefer LEDs and have been using them to replace the CFLs and incandescent bulbs that fail.

  34. de stijl says:

    @grumpy realist:

    If I fly from Minneapolis to Des Moines it’s roughly four hours (getting to the airport, checking in, flight time ~1 hour, getting a taxi / rental car, getting to my destination.)

    Driving from Minneapolis to Des Moines takes four hours give or take. I drove that route many dozens of times because job.

    Door to door, they’re basically the same. Twin Cities to Madison is faster by car than by flight by far.

    Oddly, there is no current passenger rail route between DM and MPLS. You’d have to go to Osceola, take the train to Chicago, and then Madison then to St. Paul.

  35. de stijl says:

    @Matt:

    Do CFLs produce heat? Let me check for minute and do a quick look-see.

    Okay, I’m back and CFLs do, in fact, produce heat and I have a slight ouchy on my right hand now.

  36. de stijl says:

    @James Joyner:

    I’ve generally set my thermostat at 72 in the summer and 68 in the winter–and wear sweaters or the like at home when it’s cold.

    I don’t set my AC lower than 80, and in the winter I set it at 64 and warm the one room I’m mostly in to 72 with a space heater. I actually prefer the relatively chilly bedroom; just pile on the covers and you’re aces.

  37. mattbernius says:

    @James Pearce:
    Nice Wilde Reference!

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  38. Scott says:

    After athe 90s and 00s, I was thrilled when CFLs came out. Why? Because we had ceiling fans with lights and I was always having to get the ladder out, unscrew the globe and bulbs, put new bulbs in, put the globe back one, climb down and put away the ladder. I can’t remember since I last had to do that.

  39. Scott says:

    After the 90s and 00s, I was thrilled when CFLs came out. Why? Because we had ceiling fans with lights and I was always having to get the ladder out, unscrew the globe and bulbs, put new bulbs in, put the globe back one, climb down and put away the ladder. I can’t remember since I last had to do that.

  40. Scott F. says:

    @grumpy realist:

    Incandescent light bulb alternatives weren’t cost efficient until they were. Hence the need to incentivize innovation.

  41. de stijl says:

    @Eric Florack:

    The effectiveness of ethanol in gasoline

    I just saw this, but it needs to be called out. Eric Florack, “efficacy” is a perfectly cromulent word and would be properly used here.

    Judging ethanol additives to gasoline requires math and logic. It’s one of those if X is greater than Y thingies.

    I won’t restate that for four paragraphs but the academic articles are freely available. Ethanol added to gasoline is a net marginal economic gain at 80 / 20 or smaller. It’s not huge, but notable.

  42. de stijl says:

    Growing corn strictly for ethanol is inefficient. But growing corn, selling corn, and then selling the remaining stalks chock full of sugar predecessors to ethanol producers is.

    Okay, when did life become a real time strategy game like Stellaris or Civilization VI. That’s too much bleed-over.

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  43. Eric Florack says:

    @de stijl: yeah, agreed… but, unfortunately the dictation in this phone as a little bit lacking and couldn’t understand what the word was.
    (Shrug)

    And by the way the economic gain maybe noticeable on the whole but it ends up crossing the consumer more with lower mile per gallon figures and shorter engine life.

    The original idea was to use less oil and that’s not even working out. the ethanol subsidies in the ethanol support from the government should have ended a long time ago

  44. Tyrell says:

    @al Ameda: When I walk the aisles of the local home improvement store, I notice so many items that will improve energy efficiency in a home. These are things that were not available just a few years ago. They range from high efficiency appliances, to window film, caulk, insulation, special paints, smart thermostats, tools. water saving fixtures, and elaborate timers. The American people are investing their own time and money to make their homes more energy efficient. I know some people who have built their own solar panels*. The utility company will come out and hook them up for free.
    So we can sum up by saying that the ingenuity and industriousness of the American people are paving the way.
    * Oddly, some housing developments do not allow solar panels on the roofs.

  45. James Pearce says:

    @mattbernius: Thanks.

    (At least someone got it.)

  46. grumpy realist says:

    @Kit: Supposedly of all the Shinkansen lines in Japan, it’s really only the section between Tokyo and Osaka which makes profits–which then get used to subsidise the less-traveled sections. On the other hand, the fact that you’ve got a huge network of Shinkansen lines and it’s easy to hop from one to the next in fact encourages people to use that mode of transportation. I think the government realises exactly how useful having the Shinkansen has been for business and tourism all over Japan.

    I’d love to have a network of high speed train lines in the US. The other benefit of the Shinkansen is that the trains end up hooking directly into the rest of the public transportation system, so it’s incredibly easy to get around without needing a car in the urban areas. Japanese airports usually are way out to hell and gone because of the need for land–hence domestic air travel is more of a pain in the butt. Been there, done that….

  47. DrDaveT says:

    @Eric Florack:

    We’ve seen these kind of figures altered enough to fit the talking points before.

    Global warming oops

    Thanks, Eric. I needed that belly laugh more than I had realized.

  48. An Interested Party says:

    Me: So, given a choice and good information about types of lighting would you have done this lighting?
    FM: No.

    It never ceases to amaze me how foolish and silly some anti-government types are…to pursue something even if it’s harmful to yourself simply because it’s the opposite of a government regulation? Loony…

  49. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    @grumpy realist: @Kit: What Kit notes is on point. We had lots of high speed rail in Korea, and more every year. Korea is roughly the size of Western Washington and a high-speed rail link between Portland and Seattle (with stops in Tacoma, Olympia, Centralia, and Vancouver) would be very desirable.

    And considering that the last time I got on a train at Portland–2:08 pm on a Tuesday in April–there were 200 passengers, it might make some economic sense, too. But if we’re going to do public transportation at zero subsidy… well, we can see how that idea works right now.

  50. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    @Tyrell: It’s possible that housing developments that do not allow solar panels have homeowner associations that have shared liability–so that when your roof collapses because you didn’t reinforce the joists before adding the weight of solar panels, everybody’s homeowner’s insurance rates go up, and in some cases everybody has to pay part of your roof repair–or your neighbors roof repair if you and your neighbor share a wall in common.

    It’s one of the reasons that I would not live in a neighborhood with a homeowner’s association ever again. The other reason is because the boards tend to be too conservative and end up undercapitalized when big repairs need to be done. A friend of mine sold his condo just before his homeowners association “needed” to assess $25,000 to each unit for structural repairs. (The new owner lost big time on that “flip.”)

  51. gVOR08 says:

    I read a few car magazines. When mandated pollution controls began, all of the car guys screamed bloody murder. Ten or more years ago, Road & Track published an editorial saying that they are based in L.A. and they could walk out of their office and see the hills, which they couldn’t do before. Not only was the brown cloud gone, but the cars were actually better from a car guy perspective, more power per cubic inch, better throttle response, better torque curves, and no mumbo jumbo about carb jets if you drove to Denver. It was impressively gracious of the magazine to admit error. Also of James.

  52. Matt says:

    @de stijl: One of my CFL bulbs actually partially melted on the top part and side of the base. I never used a CFL again in that fixture 😛

    @gVOR08: A lot of the same car people also screamed about ODB I/II when it was announced. Now it’s super useful for tuning vehicles and monitoring specs in real time.

  53. MarkedMan says:

    @grumpy realist:I don’t know. Sure, LA to NYC would be a drag even at 250 mph. But I regularly take a 4-5 hour train here in the NE corridor because it is substantially quicker than flying. If that train could cover twice the ground in the same amount of time it would be faster than flying for me (I live in the DC Baltimore area) to Atlanta, Boston and Chicago.

  54. @gVOR08:

    Ten or more years ago, Road & Track published an editorial saying that they are based in L.A. and they could walk out of their office and see the hills, which they couldn’t do before.

    I can attest to this: I moved to SoCal in the mid-1980s and it was quite common for the smog to obscure the nearby mountains. Mandated pollution controls definitely helped air quality. Indeed, this is one data point that changed my mind about such mandates: in my youth I had this “the market will decide” attitude (Nobody wants terrible air, right? The market will fix it!).

    I also saw a similar example in Bogota, Colombia. When I lived there in the mid-1990s the prevalence of diesel buses and created a very dirty city (in my apartment there would be a layer of black dust on our furniture. When I visited in 2010 after the implementation of various air quality measure, including a major shift to LP-powered buses, the air (and city in general) was noticeably cleaner.

  55. Michael Reynolds says:

    @gVOR08:
    I lived in LA back in the days when the news would announce ‘no breathing today.’ I remember my shock on a rare post-rain, clear day upon seeing that there were mountains. Actual mountains! And today I can see them right from my house, actual snow-capped peaks. In LA!

  56. @Michael Reynolds: I remember seeing (late 80s, probably) a postcard of LA with snow-capped mountains in the background and at the time thinking it was some kind of faked photo for tourists rubes because I had never seen those mountains when I had visited LA.

  57. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    @Steven L. Taylor: In 1971, my college concert band did a tour of SoCal and one day we stopped at a college in LA that was on a hill over looking Sunset Blvd. IIRC. The Capital Records Building was only about a quarter mile away (about 3 or 4 blocks) but the smog was so thick that I barely could see it. I commented to a student about the view. His response was “yes, it’s unusually clear today.” Wow!