Energy Bill Calls for Phasing Out Old Lightbulbs

One provision of the Energy Bill passed by the Senate last night essentially marks the beginning of the end for the old-fashioned light bulb, with provisions that would encourage use of alternatives that use much less energy.

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President Bush says he will sign a new energy bill once Congress votes on a final version next week. The legislation will require cars to go further on less fuel. It's the first change to fuel economy standards for cars in more than 30 years. Another requirement: the way most Americans light their homes will have to change.

NPR's Kathleen Schalch has more on that.

KATHLEEN SCHALCH: Thomas Edison invented the incandescent light bulb more than a century ago.

(Soundbite of archived speech)

Mr. THOMAS EDISON (Inventor): It is impossible, however, to promote gas what electricity and invention will make of the world in a hundred years hence.

SCHALCH: We are still using the same basic technology, but the new energy bill will change that.

Mr. STEVE NADEL (Executive Director, The American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy): The traditional light bulb that Thomas Edison invented will be no more.

SCHALCH: Steve Nadel directs the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy. He says within seven years, all bulbs will have to produce the same amount of light using at least 25 percent less energy.

Mr. NADEL: This is a really big deal. The energy saving from this lamp standard will be bigger than any other efficiency standard that Congress has ever adopted.

SCHALCH: That's because the conventional bulbs that most Americans use today waste 95 percent of their energy making heat.

Mr. NADEL: And this will reduce energies for lighting by 50 percent or more.

SCHALCH: Environmentalists obviously like the change. But you might be surprised as who else is behind it.

Mr. RANDY MOORHEAD (Vice President, Philips Electronics): We love it.

SCHALCH: That's Randy Moorhead, vice president of Philips Electronics, the largest lighting company in the world. Moorhead says his company worked with environmental groups to push the idea.

Mr. MOORHEAD: When we have a day when people are concerned about climate change, when we have a day when energy prices are soaring, we can do something about both by simply changing our light bulbs.

SCHALCH: And the technology is better. Compact fluorescent light bulbs are much cheaper and more versatile than they used to be.

Unidentified Man: Garden department, please take line one. Garden department, line one, please.

SCHALCH: Lopez Gamez(ph) is showing a hardware-store customer a new compact fluorescent light bulb, shaped like a squiggly ice cream cone.

Mr. LOPEZ GAMEZ (Store Employee): You'll need this when we say soft light, and this is much more friendly to the eyes.

SCHALCH: These new bulbs cost less than $3 each. That's still way more than an old-fashioned bulb. But the new ones last 10 times longer.

Mr. GAMEZ: So even if you're paying more money now, but when you look at how long it lasts, it's cheaper.

SCHALCH: There are also new bulbs that look like regular incandescent ones but use 30 percent less energy. Next, will come LED bulbs. Randy Moorhead of Philips Electronics says they won't have filaments, so they'll never burnout.

Mr. MOORHEAD: Essentially, it's going to be a product that many people can buy once and use for much of their lives.

SCHALCH: And LED bulbs may use just a tenth as much energy as an ordinary incandescent bulb. That's good because the legislation will keep tightening the rules. Lights will have to be more than twice as efficient by 2020.

Kathleen Schalch, NPR News, Washington.

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