Video: Is it 'lights out' for incandescent bulbs?

By Roger O’Neil Correspondent
NBC News
updated 3/14/2007 7:30:30 PM ET 2007-03-14T23:30:30

It's lit our way for 128 years, but an alliance of businesses, energy experts and environmentalists on Wednesday said it's time to dim old Tom Edison's incandescent light bulb and switch by 2016 to a brighter future — to energy efficient fluorescents, halogens and LEDs.

"They use only a quarter of the energy compared to an incandescent, are much cooler, last much longer, and most importantly, result in a lot less emissions coming from our power plants," says Noah Horowitz with the National Resources Defense Council.

Industry figures show replacing a 75-watt incandescent with one 20-watt fluorescent will save $55 in electricity over the life of the bulb.

It's why Brian Barton in Los Angeles changed all 118 bulbs in his house.

"I'm saving $150 a month," he says.

But for most fluorescents are still too expensive. You can buy four old-fashioned bulbs for 96 cents or one fluorescent for $5.97.

Those who vow to never screw a fluorescent into their sockets say the light is just too harsh compared to the warm, soft glow of the incandescent. Of course, there are those who think some things are better looking with no light at all.

That's certainly not true in Las Vegas — incandescent and fluorescent heaven.

That mix of bulb types is why General Electric, the parent company of NBC Universal and the world's biggest bulb maker, is not part of the new coalition.

GE said today "we support the continued development of energy efficient light sources," but "banning a particular type" and "limiting consumer choice" is not the right approach.

Still, in some states and countries, bans are being considered.

Which brings us back to Mr. Edison's 1879 light bulb. What would he think?

"Innovation is what Edison was all about," says Edison historian Jack Stanley. "If you don't have innovation, you don't have growth."

Like Edison's phonograph, the incandescent could someday dim to what was.

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