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

by: lowkell

Sat Mar 10, 2012 at 11:29:11 AM EST


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.

lowkell :: Kaplan Post Off by Factor of 10 on "$50 Light Bulb" Story; Fails to Correct Massive Error
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A couple more factors.... (0.00 / 0)
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.

Of course. Sadly, the Post and the right wingnuts (0.00 / 0)
don't get that.  

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[ Parent ]
Has anyone demanded a prominently placed correction? (0.00 / 0)
This seems pretty egregious and one of the media watchdogs should demand a prominently placed correction!  

Yes, I believe numerous people have. (0.00 / 0)
But remember, this is the Kaplan Post - no standards, no journalistic ethics, highly questionable whether you can believe anything they write in that paper.  

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[ Parent ]
Contact the ombudsman (0.00 / 0)
Patrick Pexton: He can be reached at 202.334.7582 or ombudsman@washpost.com.


For a Sustainable Virginia. Now on Twitter.

Hahahahahaha. (0.00 / 0)
Seriously, my experience is that he responds politely, then doesn't do anything. But go for it if you think it will help matters at all.

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[ Parent ]
Well, it's his job (0.00 / 0)
So he should be reminded to do it.  

For a Sustainable Virginia. Now on Twitter.

[ Parent ]
Go for it. (0.00 / 0)
I may as well, just out of stubbornness, but expecting absolutely nothing.

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[ Parent ]
Thanks for your article (0.00 / 0)
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.


The "right thing" would be an equivalent, front-page article (0.00 / 0)
about why the Post totally f***ed up its first article, and then clearly explaining what the TRUTH is. Unfortunately, I'd say the chances of this happening are about 0.00001%. But sure, bombard the ombudsman with emails and letters, if for no other reason than to have a paper/electron trail for evidence down the road, when we make the argument that the Post is a hack tabloid not worth the dead trees it's printed on.

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[ Parent ]
Go to Bed, Bath and Beyond (0.00 / 0)
They're selling LED desk lamps for as low as $20, bulb included -- brand is Ott Light.  It's a different quality of light, bright and white, worth experimenting with.  

For a Sustainable Virginia. Now on Twitter.

[ Parent ]
I bought a two-pack of LED bulbs at Costco for $9.97, about $5 per blub. (0.00 / 0)
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.


Off by a factor of 10 on electrical energy cost and off by a factor of 10... (0.00 / 0)
I should have been more direct with my little "math lesson".

Off by a factor of 10 on the cost of electricity is only half of the false comparison problem. If we add the original "factor of 10" error a nearly factor of 10 (actually, closer  to a factor of about 7 given my Costco LG 40 watt-equivalent example vs the 60 watt equivalent, we have about a factor of 17 if we consider the bulb replacement cost per 10 years factor of ACTUAL cost savings plus the factor of 10 error in energy cost savings).

That's still a huge discrepancy (17:1) that makes it look like LED bulbs are way too expensive for adequate light levels, when in fact nothing could be further from the truth. So, I think the larger of the two issues not presented correctly by either WaPo OR the Fed. agency is that the consumer LED technology is already sufficiently mature and already produced in large enough volumes to be very inexpensive. Anyone on a budget can't afford NOT to replace all incandescent bulbs with truly affordable bulbs.

Therefore, if a more price-competitive brand such as LG vs the grossly overpriced Phillips brand that got the innovation award the LED bulb is already very, very affordable by a large factor. Again,this is a no-brainer economic decision that anyone can understand and benefit from.

One other factor that hasn't even been mentioned is the electrical load on the typical 200 amp. service entrance capacity in a home. I replaced all my basement light bulbs with LED (I actually bought 6 of the two-packs, not one that I mentioned in my original post) and instead of spreading the load among three different 15 amp circuit breakers, all my connected light load in the basement is handled with a single 15 amp breaker with about half its capacity still unused. That equates to about an 80% reduction in my basement electrical needs, and it was done with a net cost savings, no electrician labor expense and every month means less energy demand and more cost savings for me. Even wealthy home owners can relate to avoiding an electrician labor cost by simple unscrewing a few old, inefficient light bulbs and screwing in a few modern-generation efficient bulbs that may won't have to be replaced again for another 20 years.

What's not to like about saving money and reducing the electrical power generation environmental impact ? Not even a government subsidy involved because the competitive market produced these low-cost LED bulb alternatives for me.


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The purpose of Blue Virginia is to cover Virginia politics from a progressive and Democratic perspective. This is a group blog and a community blog. We invite everyone to comment here, but please be aware that profanity, personal attacks, bigotry, insults, rudeness, frequent unsupported or off-point statements, "trolling" (NOTE: that includes outright lies, whether about climate science, or what other people said, or whatever), and "troll ratings abuse" (e.g., "troll" rating someone simply because you disagree with their argument) are not permitted and, if continued, will lead to banning. For more on trolling, see the Daily Kos FAQs. Also note that diaries may be deleted if they do not contain at least 2 solid paragraphs of original text; if not, please use the comments section of a relevant diary. For more on writing diaries, click here. Thanks, and enjoy!

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