Video: Calls for ban on traditional light bulbs

updated 3/7/2007 12:27:11 PM ET 2007-03-07T17:27:11

The world's three largest light bulb makers said Thursday they will push European consumers to switch to energy-saving bulbs in a bid to cut carbon dioxide emissions that are believed to contribute to global warming.

The statement by the European Lamp Companies Federation, whose members include General Electric, Siemens and Royal Philips Electronics, did not give a concrete time frame or target. (GE is the parent of NBC/Universal, which is a partner in

They said their strategy would include "public incentives to encourage consumers to purchase more efficient products and setting performance standards that will eliminate the least efficient products from the market."

They estimated that if all inefficient traditional incandescent bulbs sold in Europe were to be replaced with more efficient bulbs — such as compact fluorescent lamps or CFLs — the continent would need 27 fewer power plants.

Most power plants are fueled by coal, which releases carbon dioxide on being burned. Those and other manmade CO2 emissions, in turn, are thought by most scientists to be warming Earth.

CFLs are three times as efficient as traditional bulbs and last much longer. But despite them saving money in the long run and being more environmentally friendly, consumers have been reluctant to buy them, mostly because they cost more per bulb.

Australia aims to ban
Still, their adoption has gathered momentum recently amid worries about human impact on global warming and rising energy costs.

last month, Australia's government announced plans to ban incandescent bulbs within three years, while a California and New Jersey lawmakers introduced bills seeking to do the same in those states. Last year, Wal-Mart Stores Inc., the world's largest retailer, began actively promoting the bulbs.

Thursday's announcement follows a meeting between representatives of the companies, national governments, the European Commission and the International Energy Agency in Paris earlier this week.

The European Union is already encouraging its 27 member governments to promote the use of efficient lights on streets and in offices. The ELC Federation statement said its members "urge the European Commission to adopt a similarly proactive approach to domestic lighting," though they stopped short of calling for a ban on incandescent bulbs.

"The group is now actively working on scenarios for the various governments so as to recommend realistic targets and timelines for an effective, successful shift," the statement said.

GE against ban, cites U.S. jobs
Philips, the world's largest lighting maker, has called for a fast shift to CFLs and other technologies worldwide. GE — whose founder Thomas Edison patented the incandescent bulb in 1880 — has said a ban is a bad idea. It endorses a gradual change, arguing it is developing more efficient incandescent bulbs and governments shouldn't dictate what technology is used.

The company says that 90 percent of CFLs sold in the United States are produced in China.

"Any move to ban U.S.-made incandescent lamps before new technology substitutes are commercialized would make the U.S. dependent on non-U.S. manufacturers for virtually all of its general-purpose lighting," GE said.

An abrupt change could also lead to job losses for U.S. workers.

Philips' lighting chief executive Theo van Deursen said earlier this week that, given the savings to both environment and consumers from CFLs, it did not make sense to wait.

He predicted that halogen lights and CFLs will rapidly gain market share in the medium term, and in the long term, light emitting diodes, or LEDs — the same that power many flat-panel computer displays — will dominate the market.

LED lamps, which are up to 12 times as efficient as incandescent bulbs, last even longer than CFLs, and can produce light in any color, are only now being introduced to the market as a high-end product.

Van Deursen said consumer lighting isn't a large enough component of the company's earnings for wide-scale adoption of energy-saving bulbs to dramatically affect the company's bottom line, though he said it could make a major contribution to reducing global energy usage.

Copyright 2007 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


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