A Bright Idea for America's Energy Future

As California-and Australia and Europe-goes, so (should) go the nation. That's why it's time for the country to phase out inefficient energy-consuming light-bulbs.

Small idea. Big impact.

Today, I introduced a bill to require all light bulbs produced or used in the U.S. to meet current fluorescent bulb standards (60 lumens per watt) by 2012, 90 lumens by 2016, and 120 by 2020.

The continued widespread use of dinosaur-age lighting results in high energy costs and output, and, in the end, tons and tons of harmful carbon emissions. According to the Department of Energy, one energy efficient bulb can prevent the release of over 450 pounds of greenhouse gases.

Only 10% of the power used by today's incandescent bulbs is emitted as light. A full 90% is released as heat. The typical 60 watt bulb only lasts 750-1,000 hours. Most fluorescent bulbs can last 8 to 10 times longer.

Because bulbs using 60 lumens or more significantly reduce energy consumption, everyone saves money-and new markets can blossom. Companies across the country will benefit by helping develop the technological innovations the legislation calls for.

The bill does not discriminate against any bulb type or technology. But it does create a standard that makes sense for the market, for the environment, and for America's energy future.

It also includes carve-outs for specialized lighting, such as military, medical, and public safety uses and for situations where such lighting is not technologically feasible. But these would be small exceptions (subject to Department of Energy approval), not the rule.

We need to change the way we consume and produce energy. This legislation, while a small step, could have an enormous impact. And hopefully, it can help transform America into an energy efficient and energy independent nation.

The old joke revolves around how many people it takes to change a light bulb. The answer is: 218 members of Congress, 51 Senators and one President.