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It could be argued that trial and error was necessary to discover this unexpected drawback of LEDs, though.

I'll accept that interpretation IF they decide to get rid of them rather than continue to manually scrape them.

But, still, you would think somebody in the "environmental department" (?) would know these things. Probably this is where our C students get jobs. Oops grade inflation. B plus students.

Note well. None of this matters to PC environmentalism. As Hayek explains in TRtoS, for the common goal to be successful there can be no dissent from the common plan and common ideology, no matter how incoherent it might be.

Mario: The B students go into environmental work, the C students go into secondary education.

I meant K-12 education :)

are you saying that unintelligent people (stupid) teach High School?

Greg is right. Its the trumpeting of the goal that matters to these people. Success is defined as mass agreement. The actual practical results are inconsequental.

I don't disagree with Greg and Steve, other than perhaps in the degree of their certainty.

It's funny isn't it that the left used to be the critics of "conspicuous consumption" when it was about showing off one's wealth, but when it is about, as it is with the Greens, demonstrating one's supposed moral/ethical superiority, they seem just fine with it.

And in the end, given that most "environmentally-friendly" goods have additional costs associated with them and often don't do much for the environment, that's all a lot of green products amount to: conspicuous consumption.

Steve Horwitz,

But there my be no need to replace the LED lights. As every greenie in Green Bay knows, global warming will soon kick in with a vengence and make them all fully functional, provided Copenhagen fails. They may just be waiting to see if we get cap and trade before they decide to act.

Steve Horwitz,

You interpreted it incorrectly. This wasn't supposed to be an exercise in environmentalism. This was an attempt to create jobs. Imagine all the jobs created in the stoplight cleaning, street sweeping and emergency services sectors.

And incandescent lights help heat the house on a cold day.

Classic case of "did not test before using"

Come over to India, tons of those municipal dorks right here, who have no clue about the actual usage, but want to get in on whatever is the current "cool"

"Mario: The B students go into environmental work, the C students go into secondary education . . . I meant K-12 education :)"

Ouch. Maybe I shouldn't have sent my high school students to read this post (which, aside from your snide comments about us lowly high school teachers, was interesting).

As people are struggling to get by, the government is subsidizing all sorts of inefficient products and services on behalf of their rent seeking paymasters. Forcing people who can't really afford it to pay up or face a fine or jail. An example is ethanol, it is a net energy loser, world hunger inducer and is bad for your car's engine yet the Sec of Agriculture wants to increase its use. Could it be that he's from Iowa where they grow a lot of corn and he's "bringing the bacon back home."

@ Greg,

There are exceptions to every rule. Kudos to you for both sending your students to this blog and for justifiably standing up for yourself.

I do not have any authority to speak for Austrian economists as a group, but I will take a risk at putting my foot in my mouth and say that Austrians tend to be harsh on public school teachers. They understand that as individuals most are neither dumb nor morally deficient.

Rather I think that the argument is that the incentives public school teachers face on a daily basis are perverse. Morally you are responsible to your students and their parents to provide them a good education, legally you are responsible to a beuracracy that hems you in all sides with rules and duties. Some reasonable many petty.

As an example,I would argue that there is a good possibility some members of that beuracracy may disaprove of you pointing out any failures of government mandated enviornmental improvements such as this one. It is understandable that many teachers would simply avoid the potential hassle.

I hope your students recognize the moral courage you display to them by taking this risk to further their education.

Two comments:

1. As a point of fact, it is the case that, over the years at my school, the students who have pursued education degrees have not been our best and brightest in general. I was being a little facetious, but not too much given my own experience. (And there are exceptions - today's local paper had a column praising the Watertown HS principal who is an alum and a very bright guy.)

2. I don't think public school teachers are monsters. As the other Steve suggests, they are trapped in a structure that makes doing really good work really hard, and I admire teachers who can rise above those structures to really be educators. My kids both went/go to the local public schools and have benefited greatly from some excellent teachers, especially in the arts/music.

Education is like any other complex system: its success or failure depends primarily on the features of the *system* and not on the character of the individuals that populate it. It's true for markets, governments, and school systems.

1. Brighter students tend to avoid entering K-12 education b/c it tends to pay poorly, relative to their alternative options. But also...

2. One of the brightest econ majors (and the best T.A.) I ever had planned to teach econ & math in an inner city school -- until she learned that her double major in econ & math did not qualify her, that she "needed" a load of claptrap courses in the pseudo-science of "education."

I suppose some will find "pseudo-science" to be fighting words, but this is how several colleagues who are professors of education characterize to me the bulk of doctrines in their PC-infected field.

3. Several other of my students have gone into teaching, and have subsequently expressed disgust with the unions they are forced to join, and the tendency of many of their co-workers to have low expectations of students.

For a variety of reasons, our system tends to "select" from the less bright and less motivated.

BTW, the best economics course I ever took was my high school course -- my comment shouldn't be seen as a slam against teachers like Greg N.

Totally agreed on what Steve (Horwitz) says in his latest comment. Even though public school systems are not the best institutional framework for advancing education and excellence, I think the case against it is sometimes not very well argued. Oversimplifications though necessary may be counterproductive. This case is no exception.

The Spanish university system is very different from the US one, and I would say it is far worse -a lot more state-controlled, but even here (at least) my personal experience has shown me that you can greatly benefit from interesting proffesors, etc. Yes, this doesnt take into account how a better system would be. But as a student, this is the system you have. It is easy to complain about it, saying it is inefficient becase it is public and so on and then blame the system in case you have had a bad performance. But I think it is far better to make the most of it, maximizing your well-being subject to the constraints that exist.

The rationale for changing to led lights is not the energy saved, but rather the fewer needs to get somebody in a bucket truck up to change the bulbs. Leds reduce this from several times a year to once every 5-8 years. At $200 per visit thats a lot of money saved. If the problem is that snow blocks visibility, then put heaters that can be turned on when needed (a small part of the time).
Leds are in general great right now where it is expensive to change a bulb, with a life 25 to 50 times that of a traditional bulb. Yes every so often there will be a glitch but you then work around it.

Sounds like you've been suckered by public worker union propoganda.

The wattage of incandencent lamps isn't so high it will heat the lens given the lens a shielded from heat to protect the colored filter and extend their life. The right combination of weather conditions will cake all lights with snow.

Contrary to popular opinion, LEDs do produce heat, and the design of LED signal lamps places the LEDs right at the glass protective cover. In fact, the heat generated by LEDs is a significant problem as it reduces the lifetime if the temperature rises too high. Properly desgned lamps transfers the heat generated to the lense to both cool them and to melt snow and ice.

For reference, see this patent:
Heat dissipating L.E.D. traffic light
United States Patent 5782555
For the problem areas, this is a solution US Patent 7211771 - De-icing system for traffic signals.

And LED lamps are generally serviced once a year, in any case, for cleaning - oily grim will coat anything.

And just to illustrate the union propoganda aspect - have you ever seen a news report where the police or the driver blamed a traffic accident in snowy weather on a traffic lamp coated with snow?

Or this could be lawyers trolling for business; if charged in an accident in the snow, what better deal than finding a lawyer to argue it isn't your fault, and maybe even sue someone.

Keep in mind, about 1000 people die each week in the US in traffic accidents, ith few weeks seeing any snow, much less snow covered traffic lights.


This seems to be from the TwinCities Pioneer Press citing City Officials as the source. So, perhaps you are correct and it is public worker union propoganda or something else.

p.s. I had been using steve. Decided to use steve m instead.

Yup, my account relied on having seen a story on it on The Weather Channel and then tracking town the Twin Cities Press story on the web. It's certainly possible that the public sector unions are using this as an excuse for overtime or whatever. In which case, it illustrates a different economic lesson.

LED traffic lights are superior to incandescent. If a light is partially visible due to snow, then it is still better than the traffic light going out completely. An LED bulb has hundreds of diodes on it and they fail one at time over the life of the bulb. It is easy for a maintenance crew to spot an LED traffic light that is running at about 60% diode capacity and replace it without waiting for it to fail completely. Conversely, the incandescent bulbs start getting dimmer and the paint fades on the lens combined with the bulb burning the colored paint and the bulb eventually dies in an instant and there is no light on until it is replaced. Each traffic ball type has its drawbacks but LED has far fewer.

LED's save electricity which burns less coal. More importantly LED's save the municipality and therefore taxpayer dollars from being wasted on incandescent bulbs that need to be replaced more often and waste electricity on heat for the 363 days of the year that we aren't having a crazy blizzard.

If you are looking to switch to LED's or are looking for a replacement bulb please support our store

There is an easy and cost effective solution to this problem that is fast and uncomplicated; therefore helping cities quickly respond to the problem and alleviate more potential hazards this winter season. The solution is a scoop visor, available through McCain Inc. ( The scoop visor is specifically designed to help reduce snow deposits and build up on the face of LED traffic signals. It’s a simple and straightforward fix that allows cities to continue pursuing their eco-friendly goals of installing energy efficient LED’s, without jeopardizing the safety of their citizens.

Steve Horwitz wrote: 'I'll accept that interpretation IF they decide to get rid of them rather than continue to manually scrape them.'
Any change is a capital investment, and needs to have enough prospective benefits to justify it. It could be that it is cheaper to pay for the costs of the problems of LED lights than to pay the cost of changing them back. Also, there could be a third solution.

Traffic lights are frequently but not always shielded, right? So it should be an easy matter for someone to compare LED with and without shielding to see if it solves the problem. Alternately it does seem easy enough to engineer a solution which adds a small heating element that triggers only at below freezing temperature, or if smarter only if below freezing temperature and precipitation, or only if the light is obscured by snow/ice.

LED lamps are generally serviced once a year, in any case, for cleaning - oily grim will coat anything.

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