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Jim Presswood’s Blog

Obama Shines Light on Job-Creating Efficiency Standards

Jim Presswood

Posted June 13, 2011

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President Obama is scheduled to visit today the Cree high-efficiency lighting manufacturing plant in Durham North, Carolina.  Cree is a leading manufacturer of light emitting diode (LED) lights, which are 75 percent more efficient than traditional incandescent bulbs and last up to 25 years. 

Cree is a poster child for the benefits of the federal energy efficiency standards for light bulbs.  The standards were enacted by Congress in 2007 with bipartisan support and signed by President George W. Bush.  These standards are creating new markets for high efficiency bulbs such as the LEDs made by Cree, as well as new advanced incandescent bulbs and compact fluorescent lamps (CFLs).  Cree recently opened a new LED manufacturing line in Durham and has hired over 700 people there since 2009. 

The light bulb efficiency standards enacted in 2007 require new bulbs to use 25-30 percent less energy than traditional incandescent bulbs beginning next year, and 65 percent less by 2020.  Contrary to the claims of some politicians and pundits, the standards don’t ban incandescent bulbs – they simply require them to be more efficient.  New advanced incandescent bulbs meeting the standards that go into effect next year are already available in stores.  These bulbs look and produce light just like the old-fashioned bulbs. 

There is a lot of room for improving light bulb technology, which has changed little since the 1800s.  The host of energy saving light bulb choices available to consumers is described on our light bulb web page and in my colleague Noah Horowitz’s blogs.  The lighting efficiency standards have served as a catalyst for the lighting industry to re-invent the inefficient 125 year old light bulb.  As a result we are seeing new and improved incandescents that use roughly 30 percent less energy, better CFLs and LEDs. 

According to our analysis, the light bulb efficiency standards when fully implemented will: 

  • Save each American household $100 to $200 per year in the form of lower electric bills.
  • Reduce U.S. energy bills overall by more than $10 billion per year.
  • Achieve energy savings equivalent to the electricity production of 30 large power plants.
  • Avoid approximately 100 million tons of carbon dioxide pollution per year, which is equivalent to the emissions of 17 million cars. 

As shown by Cree’s recent expansion, the new standards also drive innovation and investments that create jobs here in America.  The light bulb efficiency standards have jump-started industry innovation and investment that is creating U.S. jobs. For example:

  • Osram Sylvania has retooled its current St. Marys, Pennsylvania incandescent factory to produce new energy saving incandescent bulbs that will meet the standards.
  • Several thousand U.S. jobs have been created by companies like Cree in North Carolina, Lighting Sciences Group Corp in Florida, and Philips Lighting (the world’s biggest lighting company) to produce the next generation of efficient LED light bulbs.
  • In 2011, TCP—one of the world’s largest makers of CFLs—is opening a new factory in Ohio to help meet the new demand.
  • GE recently invested $60 million to create a Global Center of Excellence for linear fluorescent lamp manufacturing in Bucyrus, Ohio—an action that will double the number of jobs at that plant. 

The light bulb efficiency standards are sure to create more success stories like Cree’s as they spur the transition of lighting technologies from the days of the horse and buggy to the 21st Century.

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Richard SaxbyJun 13 2011 10:33 AM

Lighting Sciences Group Corp in Florida just closed this office and moved all the jobs to Mexico

peterdubJun 16 2011 09:26 AM

Sure it is a ban...
All currently known replacement incandescents banned by 2020

As also on that website,
The society savings are less than 1% of US energy consumption,
(referencing US Dept of Energy stats)
and far better and more relevant electricity savings are achieved by generation and grid changes, in the usual 2020-2050 timescales proffered by the Obama administration.

Light bulbs don't burn coal and they don't emit CO2 - power plants might.
Where there is a problem - deal with the problem, and not by token bulb bans.

Even if the supposed consumption reduction was there, no large power plants are saved as you suggest

Even if all else was wrong,
taxation would be far more relevant, keeping choice and giving massive government income even on reduced sales
(current 2 billion annual US sales of relevant bulbs)
- including the possible cross-financing of energy saving bulbs making them cheaper and equilibrating the market, see the concluding essay on the ceolas site.
Not the irony of bankrupt California banning everything in sight instead.

peterdubJun 18 2011 06:47 AM

RE "lighting technologies from the days of the horse and buggy"

1 Old technology is also safe and proven technology - compare the safety issues around CFLs and now also LEDs,
the latter according to recent University of California research

2. Welcoming the new does not necessitate banning the old.
People use the old bulbs because they prefer them - a bureaucratic standards committee does not necessarily know better what people should use.
Compare the related radio tube, and how it largely got replaced by transistors on the market place, because of the advantages of transistors

peterdubJun 18 2011 06:56 AM

RE "creating jobs"

As is often pointed out,
incandescent manufacturers might have gone to Mexico, China etc anyway - but the regulations hastened the move
Also, increasing transport, raw material and China wage bills might see a general return to local manufacture - which the regulations have already pushed to shut down

As for making "new types of bulbs",
light bulbs using less energy are cheaper and easier to make, thus easier to set up manufacture for, and provide local jobs.
Unfortunately, we might never know of the advantages that say bioluminescent or other possible lighting technology could offer, that compensated for any energy use that did not meet standards.

Saving energy for electricity can be done in many good ways relating to generation, distribution and consumption.
Banning what bulbs people want to use is not one of them, and gives marginal savings anyway for society,
less than 1% of US energy use (US Dept of Energy)

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