Lightbulb Fiasco

bombillos-incandescentesWay back in 2006, the comandante eterno launched a brand new mission: Energy Revolution (Misión Revolución Energética), which intended to promote “the efficient and rational use of electricity”.

Even if the plan also included developing alternative sources of energy in the long term (and unsurprisingly that’s hasn’t gone well so far), its main priority was to replace traditional lightbulbs with energy-saving (ahorradores) ones in houselholds, to the point it had its own section in the MinCI (Communication & Information Ministry) website.

Last week, Electricity Minister Jesse Chacon announced that those energy-saving lightbulbs will be replaced with new LED models, after finding out they contained mercury that could be harmful to the enviroment and to people.

The goverment installed a large amount of these bulbs over the course of eight years, which came here from China thanks to the Cuba-Venezuela agreement. In 2009, Venezuela and Vietnam agreed to open a factory in Paraguana (Falcon State) to produce those energy-saving bulbs. Even if the Vietven factory was finally opened years later, and others followed, their future is up in the air as the new LED bulbs will come… you guess it… from China.

Even if experts warned for years the possible negative effects those energy-saving lightbulbs could cause, the government kept on giving them away (there were free of charge). Matter of fact, they even sent a lot of them abroad, to places like Ecuador and Honduras.

In the end, both the population and the enviroment were placed at risk, millions were spent without any accountability at all and it’s even hard to say if this specific policy caused some impact, given that blackouts are still going on as usual. Sometimes where one word can resume it all: fiasco.

Sadly, it’s very unlikely that someone will be held liable for this huge failure, at least here in Venezuela.

24 thoughts on “Lightbulb Fiasco

    • Probably the problem is, those energy saving bulbs don’t like voltage surges, so they don’t live long under “normal” Vzla. conditions… LEDs will have less problems with the blackouts and voltage surges….


  1. The purchase of millions of brand new replacement lightbulbs is probably a condition in those loans the Chinese government negotiated with Diosdado.


      • Some years ago learned about a deal which involved the purchase of brazilian made trucks through a cuban state company for onsale to the Venezuelan army ( which paid the cuban company) for delivery to Misiones which would use the trucks in support of the regimes electoral efforts . Purchase cost of trucks of course carried a substantial surcharge which went to the Cuban company . This is how we have come to become so short of the forex we need to meed our basic import needs !!

        These triangular schemes have been repeated again and again even if detrimental to Venezuelas interests ,in order to financially favour Castros regime, perhaps syphoning some money too for corrupt officials or their business friends .

        What I suspect is that there are hundreds of deals where the govt or govt entities have or continue to do things which hurt Venezuelas interests to favour their official own corrupt interests or those of certain accomplices without the public ever becominng the wiser . the cummulative effect of these past and ongoing kind of deals are what have helped bring us to the crisis we face today.. .


  2. Last week, Electricity Minister Jesse Chacon announced that those energy-saving lightbulbs will be replaced with new LED models, after finding out they contained mercury that could be harmful to the environment and to people.

    They just found out last week about the mercury in CFL bulbs? I was aware of the mercury content in CFL bulbs when I bought my first CFL bulb 11 years ago.

    The government which wants the pueblo to conserve energy on light bulbs also sells gasoline cheaper than bottled water. Go figure.


    • Believe it or not, the comparison with the bottled water is lost on most Venezuelans.
      They say then: “What? Is bottled water abroad cheaper than petrol?”
      And I tell that in Europe and Europeans are shocked by the fact Venezuelans are shocked by the fact Europeans are shocked by the fact petrol is cheaper than bottled water…Venezuela’s recursive madness.

      And the government keeps bringing the topic of petrol prices in such a pathetic way…and the opposition just hints it wants to use the topic to bash the government…and so it goes…it’s like nobody wants to disconnect granny.


    • They just found out last week about the mercury in CFL bulbs?

      Agree, BT. But what do you expect from those who produce a form, in 2001, for arriving passengers to declare what they’re bringing into Vz, listing “typewriter” as one of the options.

      Evidently, this is another case of out-of-touch-with-modernity Cubans in charge of not only ports, but also airports, and any program$ designed to make the regime look benevolent, without the benefit of specific consultation across a knowledgeable spectrum.


  3. Tweet:
    Alberto Ravell ‏@AlbertoRavell
    Mas de un millardo gasto el Gobierno en bombillos ahorradores.


  4. Each CFL bulb, when disposed of in what is probably the Venezuelan way (dumped into trash, then into landfills) contaminates 1,000 liters of groundwater–ideal for creating more brain-impaired zombie-like Chavistas!


  5. In the great scheme of things this is not a biggie.

    Yes, energy-saving lightbulbs have mercury (up to 5mg per bulb as far as I know).

    In case anyone didn’t check Marc’s Economist link, published as he says in 2006, it says LED bulbs would likely be ready for the mass market in 2010. Probably they came later, like most things, I’m not sure. Also, other Latin American countries have pushed energy-saving lightbulbs, I remember this one:

    Yes, the corruption, yes the inefficiency, it’s Venezuela after all, but Gustavo, other than that it’s not a fiasco, save your energy for bigger things. And Roy, sometimes, even outside of Venezuela, the government needs to give a push. Energy is a good example. Take the Chilean example as a reference. That’s not central planning.


    • I mostly agree, but well, as always, you have to wonder why this kind of stuff always end up buying from ideological friends via Cuba or whatever. Instead of, you know, your normal open process of finding the best bid.


  6. Use of MTBE in gasoline is being phased out in many parts of the worlds because its carcinogenic and whenever gasoline gas station storage tanks filter below ground (a very often ocurrence) it can get mixed with underground water and become a health hazard. the substitute is ethanol

    Some years ago the Regime decided to get rid of MTBE as a component in the gasoline sold in Venezuela and even commissioned the building of an ethanol plant with a one of Pequivens mixed company , the plant even got built (with a big price tag) , but then they backtracked their decision (MTBE is a bit cheaper). The new plant was left idle but because the needs for MTBE rose with higher gasoline consumption now they have to import it from the US at huge cost . More than half of US product imports from the US are MTBE.

    The incongruous thing is how they are so senstitive about the tiny amounts of mercury in the long lasting bulbs they distributed previously but are so totally insentitive to the health hazard that the presence of MTBE in the gasoline represents . Maybe the left hand doenst know what the right hand does , maybe there is some ‘guiso’ associated with the purchase of the new kind of light bulb which will benefit govt officials or their friends , maybe they want to help Cuba via a triangulation . who knows ?? .

    The regime goes from blunder to blunder and still manages to hypochritically make a show of their concern for peoples health while wasting and maybe scamming public money and maintaining a perhaps bigger health hazard by using MTBE in the gasoline they distribute.!!

    Some people suggest that their irrational destructive decisions the regime take are not the result of imcompetence but part of a nefarious plan to convert us into another Cuba , The above suggests that they are indeed both imcompetent and corrupt whatever the ultimate consequences of their actions.. .


  7. We have been using MTBE as an octane booster since year 2000 when ithe lead free gas was labelled as “green”… Another issue with old cars that nobody talks about is that when you remove the lead from the gas, engines must be modified (better exhaust valve seats) because the lead acts a lubricant; one reason that unleaded gas was not used before in Venezuela was due to many old cars that would have increased engine wear with the unleaded gas, so the decision was postponed and postponed …


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