California is considering a bill for introduction in the state legislature that would ban all incandescent light bulbs by 2012. California Assemblyman Lloyd Levine, who crafted the “How Many Legislators Does It Take to Replace a Light Bulb” proposal, said incandescent light bulbs are outdated.

“Incandescent light bulbs were first developed almost 125 years ago, and since that time, they have undergone no major modifications,” Levine said. “Meanwhile, they remain incredibly inefficient, converting only about 5 percent of the energy they receive into light.” Levine believes it’s time to “take a step forward” and that a government mandate is in order.

Levine’s major arguments for this proposal revolve around environmental impact and cost. According to the Rocky Mountain Institute (RMI), a nonprofit organization that focuses on energy policy, replacing a 75-watt incandescent light bulb with a 20-watt compact fluorescent would result in the same amount of light but would save 1,300 pounds of carbon dioxide and save customers $55 over the life of the bulb, which is much longer with a compact fluorescent. In addition, a utility can actually give away compact fluorescent lamps more cheaply than it can fuel its existing power plants.

However, the National Electrical Manufacturers Association (NEMA), which has historically promoted the use of energy-efficient technology, noted the increasing market penetration of compact fluorescent lighting and rejected calls for a ban on the traditional incandescent lamp.

“NEMA has a solid record of supporting energy-efficiency standards and codes when they are reasonable, meet customer needs and are implemented in an orderly fashion,” said Evan Gaddis, NEMA president.

Gaddis said product bans and other command-and-control strategies are typically not an effective means of creating a more energy-efficient society.

“The marketplace [itself] tends to encourage innovation and eventually sorts technology in an efficient manner. The quickly growing number of compact fluorescents being sold to consumers is proof positive of that.”

According to the U.S. Department of Energy, consumers in 2006 purchased 97 million compact fluorescent bulbs, up 122 percent from the year before.

Gaddis said he hopes California and other states work with manufacturers, retailers and the Department of Energy to educate the public and promote purchase of energy-efficient lighting.

“If consumers are properly educated, they come to understand that the savings realized in terms of energy efficiency will soon recoup any higher purchase costs,” Gaddis said.     EC