Germanic Hoards

The old central powers (Germany, Austria, Hungary) seem to have come together again in opposition to plans to phase out incandescent light bulbs in favor of the more expensive twirly kind:

Germans, Austrians and Hungarians are hoarding energy-hungry light bulbs, which have fallen out of favour in other European countries, ahead of a European Union ban that takes effect next month.

The scramble for conventional bulbs illuminates the challenges of persuading consumers to embrace environmentally friendly shopping habits – particularly in the midst of an economic crisis. Sales of incandescent light bulbs have risen 34 per cent year-on-year in Germany in the first six months of 2009, data from GfK, the German consumer research group, shows.

In most other European countries, sales of old-style light bulbs have fallen at double-digit rates this year. In the UK, sales dropped 22 per cent, amid a voluntary agreement between retailers and energy companies to phase out light bulbs nine months ahead of the EU ban.

Germany, home of the Green Party founded by Petra Kelly and Joseph Beuys amongst others, seems to be doing so for reasons of comforting domesticity:

The shopping behaviour appears to contradict the stereotypes of Germans and Austrians as environmentally conscious. But Hans-Georg Häusel, a psychologist who uses brain science to explain consumer behaviour, said they were reluctant to change. “There is a fear that they could destroy the snug atmosphere of their homes,” he said.

CFLs will surely get more affordable and provide better quality light.  In the meantime, however, it seems that the Germans, Austrians and Hungarians have decided that, even if a German’s home is not his castle, it deserves to be as well lit as possible.

Image: Professor Joseph Beuys in the 1960s.  He was still wearing that hat when the author heard him speak in the 1980s.