If you prefer the shine of incandescent light bulbs to fluorescent or LED alternatives, now’s the time to stockpile: on January 1, the manufacture of traditional 40- and 60-watt incandescent light bulbs in the U.S. ends, by federal law (the manufacture of 100-watt bulbs ended last year).
It will not be illegal for people to possess or use incandescents, nor will stores on January 1 be forbidden to sell any incandescent stock remaining on their shelves, but once those incandescent bulbs are gone, American stores won’t be able to buy or stock any more of them.
The rationale behind the incandescent ban is that incandescents require far more energy than compact fluorescent (CFL) or light-emitting diode (LED) bulbs to emit the same level of illumination.
But opponents of the ban raise many objections, including the fact that CFL bulbs contain trace amounts of mercury — granted, probably not enough that discarding one single CFL bulb will cause any real problems, but enough that hundreds of millions of Americans using and eventually discarding billions of bulbs are likely to ensure horribly toxic pollution-contamination problems in the future.
Fans of incandescent lighting also point out that CFL or LED light is not identical to the illumination from an incandescent bulb. Flickering fluorescent lights can cause seizures in people prone to having them; studies have shown CFL bulbs can emit enough ultraviolet radiation to cause skin cancer; and both LED and CFL bulbs emit light in the cooler ends of the spectrum, which renders colors differently.
(Disclaimer: as a personal matter, we’ve never liked CFL and LED light, which always struck us as bleak and depressing. LED lanterns are great to have on hand for emergency power outages, but for regular illumination we’ve laid in a decent-sized stockpile of traditional Edison incandescents.)
(Editor's note: We disagree with Jennifer. We have equipped our home and office with LED bulbs tuned to "natural daylight." Vast improvement asthetically. Also, they run much cooler, use less electricity and last indefinitely We have some LED bulbs that are five years old and have not had a single one burn out.)