Nightly News | February 21, 2011
>>> now to our special segment here tonight. we ask only slightly tongue in cheek do you know your light bulbs are in danger? we're talking about the old-school light bulb , the ones that turn on fully when you turn them on and provide that warm glowing light at a cost. the day is coming when, because of an act of congress , we all have to get rid of our traditional bulbs and switch to those energy-efficient bulbs and a whole lot of people just don't want to. our chief environmental affairs correspondent, anne thompson , takes a look at the debate over the switch.
>> if you're like me, haven't you thought of a light bulb as just a light bulb ?
>> reporter: at 131 years old, thomas edison 's bright idea may be due for a makeover, but the government-mandated transition, to the cfl , isn't winning many style points.
>> do they sell regular light bulbs now?
>> oh, no, no, you can buy the regular ones.
>> reporter: jorge fernandez is the lighting buyer for home depot . he thinks the cfl should be an easy sell.
>> this compact fluorescent light bulb costs about $1.50 and lasts seven to nine years and uses 75% less energy than the incan definite.
>> reporter: that's not good enough for a growing group of vocal consumers.
>> i really like light to turn on when i turn the switch.
>> reporter: home design columnist marnie jameson is doing a slow burn at the time it takes cfls to warm up and the light they give off.
>> if one crashes on my kitchen counter , i've got mercury poisoning .
>> reporter: not quite. glass thermometers have 100 times more mercury than a cfl , according to underwriters laboratories . if one breaks, the environmental protection agency advises airing out the room, sweeping up the debris, placing it in a sealable container and putting it in the trash outside. hardly reassuring. some worry what cfls will do to our landfills.
>> here's my horde.
>> reporter: so jameson is not convinced.
>> i'm going to stockpile the intod incan definite bulb.
>> reporter: it was signed into lie by president george w. bush . but in 2011 the light bulb is a political football .
>> instead of a leaner, smarter government, we bought a bureaucracy that now tells us which light bulbs to buy.
>> reporter: for light bulb makers like ge, a part owner of nbc universal , the phase-out begins next year. by 2014 , incan definites will no longer be on store shelves. the light bulb factory in virginia last year shut down and 200 employees were put out of work. now some in the federal government think they have a better idea. they want to restore freedom of choice to america's lighting department.
>> i don't think that's appropriate.
>> reporter: texas congressman joe barton is co-sponsoring legislation to repeal the change.
>> it's just kind of a politically correct do-gooder issue. we don't think the government needs to mess in that area.
>> reporter: in the detroit suburb of roseville, it doesn't take an act of congress just to price cut to convince some consumers. so now when these are comparable, you're selling cfls at a rate of three to one?
>> about three to one with the pricing, yes.
>> reporter: dick bevington is plugged isn't.
>> how many do you have in your house?
>> everywhere i can put them in a socket, that's where they're at.
>> reporter: and you're counting your pennies?
>> yes. i'm retire, so i have to count them.
>> reporter: an enlightening debate that has some taking stock, and others stocking up. anne thompson , nbc news, roseville, michigan.