Aiming to keep the focus on climate change legislation, President Barack Obama put a plug in for administration efforts to make lamps and lighting equipment use less energy.
"I know light bulbs may not seem sexy, but this simple action holds enormous promise because 7 percent of all the energy consumed in America is used to light our homes and businesses," the president said, standing alongside Energy Secretary Steven Chu at the White House.
Obama said the new efficiency standards he was announcing for lamps would result in substantial savings between 2012 and 2042, saving consumers up to $4 billion annually, conserving enough energy to power every U.S. home for 10 months, reducing emissions equal to the amount produced by 166 million cars a year, and eliminating the need for as many as 14 coal-fired power plants.
The president also said he was speeding the delivery of $346 million in economic stimulus money to help improve energy efficiency in new and existing commercial buildings.
Republicans took issue with Obama's pitch.
"Conservation is only half the equation. Even as we use less energy, we need to produce more of our own," said Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky. "We have to admit there's a gap between the clean, renewable fuel we want and the reliable energy we need."
The White House added the event to the president's schedule at the last minute, just three days after the House narrowly approved the first energy legislation ever designed to curb global warming. The measure's fate is less certain in the Senate, where Democrats lack the 60 votes needed to block a certain filibuster.
Still, in an interview with a small group of reporters, Obama energy adviser Carol Browner said: "I am confident that comprehensive energy legislation will pass the Senate." But she repeatedly refused to say exactly when the White House expected the Senate to pass the measure, and she wouldn't speculate on whether Obama would have legislation sent to his desk by year's end.
The White House is working to keep energy in the spotlight even as Congress takes a break this week for the July 4 holiday. Obama has spent the past few days pressuring the Senate to follow the House while also seeking to show that the administration is making quick, clear progress on energy reform without legislation.
In February, the president directed the Energy Department to update its energy conservation standards for everyday household appliances such as dishwashers, lamps and microwave ovens. Laws on the books already required new efficiency standards for household and commercial appliances. But they have been backlogged in a tangle of missed deadlines, bureaucratic disputes and litigation.
The administration already had released new standards on commercial refrigeration. Lamps were next.