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The light bulb test

July 26, 2011 |  9:32 am

Photo: A compact fluorescent, a GE LED, an EcoVantage energy-efficient incandescent, a Philips LED, and a halogen — all alternatives to traditional lights. Credit: Kirk McKoy / Los Angeles Times How many conservatives does it take to screw up a light bulb law that sets a higher bar for energy-efficient bulbs -- a law that was passed during Geroge W. Bush’s administration, no less? With any luck we won’t find out. While Republican lawmakers push back against modern bulbs in favor of old-fashioned bulbs, hopefully consumers will continue to forge their own path by embracing the modern bulbs that the light bulb industry has already developed.

The editorial board weighed in on this issue last week, writing:

Starting in 2012, the traditional 100-watt bulbs go off the market, followed over the next two years by lower-wattage bulbs. California is moving ahead even more quickly, phasing out the 100-watt bulb this year.

Once the phase-out is fully in place, the law will save consumers about $12 billion a year in energy costs; the average California household will save $124 a year. And more than utility bills are at stake. Conservation is one of the fastest and most effective paths to energy independence. The bulb law will save the country more energy than it takes to power a third of the state of California. And even though compact fluorescent bulbs contain a small amount of mercury, making them harder to dispose of, the law will reduce mercury pollution overall by eliminating the need for 30 coal-fired power plants.

It seems like a no-brainer, especially when you consider that, as the board pointed out, “an incandescent-halogen hybrid looks the same as the traditional bulb yet meets the federal standard.” But opponents say the government has no right to say what people can and can’t buy; it’s like they’re pushing back on principle. To which the board says: “[I]t's actually about setting standards for production, which the government does in many areas. Cribs must meet safety standards; new homes must meet energy standards; roofs have to meet fire standards.”

In fact, the only tricky part might be all the options out there for consumers. On that matter, The Times' Home section debuted a consumer guide on Friday, which covers topics including cost, light quality and variety. And the home blog Re-Nest just launched a ten-week series in which they’ll test 18 different bulbs.

What would Thomas Edison think of his beloved bulb getting the modern treatment? Judging from this BBC podcast, he’d have bought the rights and handled the marketing campaign.

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Photo: A compact fluorescent, a GE LED, an EcoVantage energy-efficient incandescent, a Philips LED, and a halogen — all alternatives to traditional lights. Credit: Kirk McKoy / Los Angeles Times

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