The mercury issue is almost a non issue:
A June 2007 article calculated that the overall mercury emission by CFLs is less than the mercury released into the atmosphere by coal-fired power generation for series of equivalent incandescent lamps over the same period. See: Compact Fluorescent Bulbs and Mercury: Reality Check. Popular Mechanics, 11 June 2007.
This doesn't mean we can just throw out our compact fluorescents like we did incandescents, but it does mean that even if we did there would still be less mercury released into the environment than if we were using incandescents.
On the energy front:
People who use air conditioning will see an increased savings when their air conditioners don't have to work as hard (if a 75 watt incandescent is replaced by a 20 watt fluorescent bulb, that extra 55 watts was going out as heat, and since air conditioners aren't 100% efficient, it would take more than 55 watts to cool the air). In California, our major electricity demand tends to be in the summer when folks are using air conditioners (this is when we have our brown/black outs). So, for each 75 watt light bulb that is replaced, over 110 watts is saved during this high energy demand period.
On the "what about my rights" front:
We're a society; we make laws. No one has the right to drive 100 MPH. No one has the right to drive through red lights. In California, no one can buy non-low flow toilets (and the low flow models have become much better since the traditional toilets were outlawed). We can easily pass a law that bans incandescent bulbs if we believe it is better for us. And, as we saw with toilets, once everyone needs to buy them, the "market" will improve the quality of the product, and the prices will come down.
We've already seen this in compact fluorescents--just because enough of us wanted them--both in quality of light and in size (being able to fit into small spaces that the original compact fluorescents couldn't).
Hopefully the law will be written in such a way as to not specify the type of bulb required (you must use fluorescent
bulbs), but rather outlaw only incandescents. There should also be some fine print for special cases, but these should be limited to critical devices, and not just to allow folks to use dimmer switches. Again, I have confidence that if we outlaw incandescents, the "dimmable" fluorescents (or something similar), will improve to an acceptable quality.