The makers of the film believe that the European light-bulb lobby, including major companies such as Philips and Osram, are behind the demise of the cheaper incandescent light bulb because of the larger profit margins associated with more expensive energy-saving light bulbs.
According to the German newsmagazine Der Spiegel, the EU ban on light bulbs was motivated less about genuine environmental concerns than it was about scoring political points on the international stage.
“A ban on incandescent light bulbs, which would be relatively easy to implement, would enable the EU to score some quick victories on the climate front. After all, the EU’s pledge to reduce carbon dioxide emissions by 20% by 2020 was highly ambitious from the start,” according to the magazine.
Light bulbs and vacuum cleaners are not the only products targeted for higher energy efficiency. As of November 1, “the weighted condensation efficiency of condensation tumbler dryers must not be less than 60%,” according to European Commission Regulation No. 932/2012 dated October 3, 2012 which implements “Directive 2009/125/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council with regard to ecodesign requirements for household tumble driers.”
On November 4, the European Commission—the executive body of the European Union—adopted a proposal that requires member states to implement measures to reduce the use of plastic bags. That same week, Brussels announced criteria to standardize the flushing of all toilets and urinals in the EU. The decision followed years of efforts by experts working for the European Commission’s environment directorate, as well as “stakeholders” studying “user behavior” and “best practices.”
According to a 60-page technical report on European toilets and urinals—which took two years and an unspecified amount of taxpayer money to complete—EU experts have agreed that two “key elements” appear to affect the water consumption of flushing toilets and urinals: their design and user behavior. Regarding user behavior and “based on the discussions with stakeholders,” the experts have decided to set the average flush volume as “the arithmetic average of one full flush volume and three reduced flush volumes.”
In May 2013, the European Commission announced the so-called Plant Reproductive Material Law, an Orwellian directive that would make it illegal to “grow, reproduce or trade” any vegetable seeds that have not been “tested, approved and accepted” by a new EU bureaucracy named the EU Plant Variety Agency. The new law would give Brussels authority over all plants and seeds bought and sold in all 28 EU member states, and would prohibit home gardeners from growing their own plants from non-regulated seeds. Critics say the new law is an effort by the EU to gain “total domination of the food supply.”
“This is an instance of bureaucracy out of control,” according to Ben Gabel, director of the UK-based Real Seed Catalogue. “All this new law does is create a whole new raft of EU civil servants being paid to move mountains of papers round all day, while interfering with the right of people to grow what they want, and charging fees for the use of plants that were domesticated and bred by the public over thousands of years of small-scale agriculture,” says Gabel.
Arguably the most famous examples of EU over-regulation involve rules on the physical appearance of fruit and vegetables. For example, European Commission Regulation No. 2257/94—also known as the “bendy banana law“—states that all bananas bought and sold in the EU must be “free from malformation or abnormal curvature.”
According to the regulation, “Extra class” bananas must be of “superb quality,” while “Class I” bananas can have “slight defects of shape,” and “Class II” bananas can have full-on “defects of shape.” The document states that the size of the banana is determined by “the grade, i.e. the measurement, in millimeters, of the thickness of a transverse section of the fruit between the lateral faces and the middle, perpendicularly to the longitudinal axis.”
In the instance of cucumbers, European Commission Regulation No. 1677/88, “Class I” and “Extra class” cucumbers are allowed a bend of 10mm per 10cm of length. “Class II” cucumbers can bend twice as much. Any cucumbers that are curvier may not be bought or sold.
Amid public outcry, Brussels eventually reversed its ban on curvy cucumbers—as well as on imperfectly shaped Brussels sprouts, carrots, cherries and garlic—as part of the EU’s effort to cut “unnecessary” red tape.
About the Author: The writer is the Senior Analyst for Transatlantic Relations at the Madrid-based Grupo de Estudios Estratégicos / Strategic Studies Group, one of the oldest and most influential foreign policy think tanks in Spain.
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