Legislator Wants Green Lights in California


LOS ANGELES, Jan. 31, 2007 — -- California residents will soon shed a new light on global warming with energy-efficient lightbulbs. These compact fluorescent lightbulbs, known for their swirly ice cream cone shape, may freeze some pocketbooks for their hefty price.

The change will come about if a California lawmaker is successful in his quest to ban the use of incandescent light bulbs in order to conserve energy and reduce greenhouse gases which are linked to global warming.

The "How Many Legislators Does it Take to Change a Light Bulb Act" would ban the use of incandescent light bulbs by 2012. Instead, compact fluorescent light bulbs (CFLs) would become the norm for California residents.

"California is the first state saying that we're going to phase them out," said Lloyd Levine, the California assemblyman who first proposed the initiative.

Levine said the difference between the two bulbs is one of energy efficiency. When using a CFL, Levine said, "we need much less energy to power it."

CFLs generate 70 percent less heat than incandescent lights and save an average of $30 or more in energy costs over each bulb's lifetime, according to the Web site for Energy Star, which is a joint program of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Department of Energy to help people save money and protect the environment through products and practices.

Critics say CFLs are too expensive and don't provide adequate lighting. However, according to the Energy Star Web site, CFLs use less energy than the standard light bulb, provide the same amount of light and last up to 10 times longer.

Wal-Mart has set a goal to sell 100 million compact fluorescent light bulbs by the end of 2007.

"We are on track to reaching our goal to provide affordable technology, and, at the same time, be environmentally conscious," said Trudi Hughes, a spokesman for Wal-Mart Stores, Inc.

For the most part, Hughes said, the public's reaction to the sale of CFLs has been positive. "We are extremely encouraged by our customer's reaction to [to the goal of selling] 100 million by the end of 2007," she said.

According to Wal-Mart's Web site, the sales goal has the potential to save customers as much as $3 billion in electrical costs over the life of CFLs. Wal-Mart states that in addition to saving money for their customers, these innovative products conserve up to 75 percent more energy than traditional light bulbs and lower greenhouse emissions.

Hughes said sales of CFLs are happening in Wal-Marts across the United States, not just in the state of California.

Levine is expected to introduce the legislation this week. "It's about using what we have more efficiently," he said. "Gradually, we'll see a transition into the new ones," he added.

Levine said 2 percent of all energy produced is used to power incandescent lighting.

Southern California Edison, one of the country's largest electricity providers, wants to help customers switch to compact fluorescent bulbs through a program that offers income-qualified households five free fluorescent bulbs.

"We have a coverage area of 50,000 square miles and have approximately 13 million consumers of electricity," said Tom Boyd, spokesman for Southern California Edison.

Southern California Edison also runs a program that provides a discount to customers by reducing the retail price from $1 to $2.50 per bulb. In the last year, approximately 6 million bulbs have been purchased through SCE's retail program.

A CFL uses approximately 25 percent of the energy required by a standard incandescent bulb, according to Southern California Edison.

Levine said it is important for consumers to leave their preconceived notions behind and keep an open mind. "Try it and see, you'll be surprised," he said.

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