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Kaplan Post Off by Factor of 10 on “$50 Light Bulb” Story; Fails to Correct Massive Error


We know the Washington Kaplan Post practices all the sins of the corporate hack media in abundance: constant use of false equivalencies (“one side says there is global warming, the other side says there isn’t”); failure to point out factually incorrect assertions (e.g., Republicans claiming that the Affordable Care Act will increase the deficit, when it fact the CBO says it will reduce it, etc., etc.) to readers; frequent plagiarism of/failure to properly credit stories from other media outlets, including blogs like this one; superficial and shallow “analysis” of events; thin coverage in general; sloppiness and lack of sufficient copy editing; too much “horse race” and not enough substance; utter lack of understanding of complex subjects like the economy, energy, the environment, etc; allowing complete nutjob stuff (e.g., climate science denial, wild warmongering) on their editorial page; etc., etc.

Now we have one of the Post’s most egregious screwups in a long time (ever?), with its Friday, front-page story on how (supposedly) a Government-subsidized green light bulb carries costly price tag. The story concluded, among other things, that the lifetime cost of a $50 LED bulb turned out to be $5 higher than an incandescent bulb ($53 vs. $48). Only one problem, as ThinkProgress Green points out: their math was completely, wildly wrong — not even close (believe it or not, the idiots at the Post assumed that people pay 1 cent per kWh for electricity; uh, guys, try 12 cents per kWh!). In fact, it turns out that when you do the math correctly, with the actual price of electricity (NOT 1 cent per kWh!), the LED is actually $130 cheaper than the incandescent ($80 vs. $210) during its lifetime. Here’s the correct graphic, courtesy of ThinkProgress Green.

The other problem, almost more egregious than the fact that the Post published this completely FUBAR article in the first place, is that they have not retracted it, written an equivalent front-page story explaining their massive screwup, etc. This failure to own up to their mistake(s) harms the Post’s spiraling-down-the-toilet-bowl credibility even further. Do they even care? Based on their lack of retraction/correction, it doesn’t seem they do. Remind me again, why do any of us still subscribe to this once-great, now increasingly embarrassing, “newspaper?” (Note: in my case, my wife likes doing the hard-copy crossword puzzle; I also like getting the coupons, which some weeks pay for the “newspaper.”)

P.S. Also see WashPost Triple Fail… by energy expert Adam Siegel.

  • glennbear

    Those of us old enough to remember the original hand held calculators reacall that folks were not flocking to buy them when the price was obscenely high. Today due to economies of scale and competition they are super cheap. The same will happen with new bulb technology.

  • truthteller

    This seems pretty egregious and one of the media watchdogs should demand a prominently placed correction!  

  • kindler

    Patrick Pexton: He can be reached at 202.334.7582 or ombudsman@washpost.com.

  • ir003436

    I was somewhat dismayed by the Post article as we have been considering replacing our incandescent bulbs with LED bulbs — one or two at a time due to the cost.  The Post article dampened our enthusiasm — but — now we are ready to start replacing incandescents with LEDs.

    I sent an email to the Post ombudsman and I suggest everyone else do the same.  Maybe we can force him to do the right thing.

  • Tom

    Granted, the bulbs I bought at Costco (LG brand) were only equivalent to 40 watt incandescent bulbs but the lumens light output is nearly the same as the number of lumens of light from a 60 watt incandescent bulb, and the LED bulbs only consume about 7.5 watts of electrical energy, about half the energy consumed by an equivalent flourescent bulb with none of the environmental negatives of the mercury used in those bulbs. Plus, the LED bulbs generate very little heat (hence, the low energy consumption since more than  80% of the electrical energy used with incandescent bulbs does nothing but generate heat).

    So, why did the Fed. agency decide that the greatly over-priced Phillips brand was so “affordable” if I can buy a competitor’s brand for a little more than 10% of what they are saying is “affordable” ?

    I think it’s the Fed. agency that owes the public an explanation. The LG brand technology is virtually identical to the Phillips (a Dutch company), but all their home consumer LED bulbs are several times as expensive as their competitors’ equivalent bulbs. Lowe’s also sells several LED brands, including Sylvania and LG, and all are less than half the Phillips price for comparable bulbs.

    Now to the real bottom line: If I can buy two 40 watt-equivalent LED bulbs for $5 each, with an estimated life of about 20 years (that’s years, not months) for about 5 times what an incandescent bulb with a max life of maybe 3-4 months, and save over 80% of the annual energy cost, why would anyone NOT switch ? The bulbs will pay for themselves in less than a year from the replacement cost savings alone, not even considering the energy cost savings.

    Can you imagine never having to replace a light bulb again for 20 years ? Can you imagine cutting your lighting energy costs by over 80% ? This is a no-brainer decision that even wealthy people can relate to,but ONLY if the actual facts are presented correctly.