The Clean Energy Act of 2007 requires general all-purpose bulbs to be about 25% more efficient than they are today. The myths and facts about what this will mean for consumers and the environment.


  • Jim Presswood Federal energy policy director, Natural Resources Defense Council
  • Kyle Pitsor Vice president, National Electrical Manufacturers Assn
  • Rep. Michael Burgess Republican,Texas, 26th District
  • Oladele Ogunseitan Chair, department of population health and disease prevention, University of California, Irvine
  • Phil West Director, office of technology advancement and outreach, U.S. Energy Department

Animal Planet: Energy-Efficient Penguin


  • 11:06:55

    MS. DIANE REHMThanks for joining us, I'm Diane Rehm. Beginning next year, traditional 100 watt incandescent light bulbs will no longer be available at most stores. That's because new standards set by the Clean Energy Act of 2007 require that bulbs consume at least 25 percent less electricity to produce the same amount of light.

  • 11:07:25

    MS. DIANE REHMFor this month's Environmental Outlook Series, what the new standards will mean for consumers and for the environment. Joining me in the studio, Jim Presswood of the Natural Resources Defense Council, Kyle Pitsor of the National Electrical Manufacturers Association, otherwise known as NEMA, and Phil West, he's director of the Office of Technology, Advancement and Outreach at the U.S. Department of Energy. And before we begin our conversation with guests here in the studio, we're joined by Congressman Michael Burgess of Texas. Good morning to you, sir.

  • 11:08:15

    CONGRESSMAN MICHAEL BURGESSGood morning, Diane, always good to be with you.

  • 11:08:17

    REHMThank you. Tell me why you and other Republicans introduced a bill to repeal the new standards for light bulbs.

  • 11:08:28

    BURGESSWell, I'll even take you back a little bit farther to the year 2007, when I was kind of a lone voice on the subcommittee and the full committee when this bill was debated because I did not think this was a good idea and I thought this was Congress taking its power to a direction where it was never intended to go. Look, I work in a federal building, I get the fact that they get to tell me what kind of light under which I function all day, but they do not get the ability to tell me what wavelength of light I use when I read my paper at night.

  • 11:09:02

    BURGESSWhen you get to a certain age, your ability to discriminate lines becomes enhanced by the wavelength of the incandescent light. And here's the really ugly truth, no pun intended, those of us of a certain age don't look as good under the wavelength of fluorescent light, so we like to burn incandescent lights in our home so we look just a little bit better.

  • 11:09:25

    REHMBut surely you're not just...

  • 11:09:28

    BURGESSAnd I would also emphasize it is my constitutional right to be able to do that. The federal government does not have the power to come into my home and tell me what wavelength of light to use.

  • 11:09:37

    REHMIsn't there some concern about American jobs going overseas if, in fact, this is carried out?

  • 11:09:49

    BURGESSWell, in fact, that was -- that's what got this kicked into gear again. Again, I fought this battle in 2007, when the bill was being debated in committee and on the House floor. It sort of lay dormant for awhile and then it was the closure of the plant in Virginia that sent 200 jobs away and that manufacturing went overseas to China. It got some Congressional interest again, so yeah, there are two sides to this. One is just the constitutional question, do we even have the right to do this? We're supposed to deliver the mail and defend the borders, not organize what kind of light to use.

  • 11:10:29

    BURGESSBut the other was what about the job-killing nature of this energy bill that was passed in 2007 and signed by President Bush, I might add. This was not something that came under the Obama administration, it was the previous administration.

  • 11:10:42

    REHMSo what about the content of the lights themselves?

  • 11:10:50

    BURGESSWell, the mercury has been a concern for me and that's one of the things I articulated in our debates in subcommittee and full committee several years ago. And in fact, I had an amendment at the time and I have a bill out now that says, you know, if you're in a place where there's a vulnerable population that is difficult to move and I'm thinking nursing homes, thinking hospital nurseries, then it is okay not to use compact fluorescent bulbs in this environment because if a bulb shatters, mercury is disbursed into the environment the first thing they tell you to do is to leave the room and close the door for 15 minutes and allow that aerosol dispersion to settle down.

  • 11:11:25

    BURGESSWell, if you're in a hospital nursery or if you're in a nursing home patient's room, it may be difficult to get that person out the door within that 15 minute timeframe, let alone before any of the mercury has contaminated the surroundings. And the other thing, of course, is these bulbs last a long time. I get that, but at some point, the landfills are going to begin to receive these bulbs in large numbers. What are our plans for dealing with these bulbs when they reach the end of their useful lifespan? And none of that was addressed in the legislation in that Energy Security Act of 2007.

  • 11:11:59

    REHMDr. Burgess, haven't there even been some health concerns raised by those who feel that these are the wrong lighting systems?

  • 11:12:11

    BURGESSThere have been. I will say, those reports tend to be more anecdotal, but to me, the real issues are number one, did we have the authority to do this in the first place? I don't think so. And the other is, are there dangers that occur, identifiable dangers, not even going into the anecdotal reports, but look, the EPA says, if you break one of these things you've got to do certain things very quickly. And if you're in a place where it would be difficult to perform those functions or if the population affected would be difficult to move out of the area, that's a concern. And you ought not to have to be required to use compact fluorescent lighting in those venues.

  • 11:12:49

    BURGESSNow, is the technology going to change over the next couple of years? I've no doubt that it will. Will there perhaps be better, cheaper, safer lights available? I've no doubt that there will. But again, the fundamental question is, did we have the authority to do what we did in the first place? It may have been done for the best of intentions. We want to reduce the dependence on foreign oil. I get that, but at the same time, did the federal government have the ability to make this call? And I don't think they did.

  • 11:13:17

    REHMHow many of your colleagues do you have with you?

  • 11:13:22

    BURGESSOn the bill that I have that is narrowly drawn on nursing homes and nurseries just...

  • 11:13:27

    REHMI see.

  • 11:13:29

    BURGESS...a handful but on the larger, on the Bulb Act that was introduced by Mr. Barton, I think there's a significant -- probably in the range of five dozen co-sponsors.

  • 11:13:36

    REHMCongressman Michael Burgess of Texas, thank you for joining us.

  • 11:13:40

    BURGESSThank you.

  • 11:13:43

    REHMAnd now, turning to you, Jim Presswood. Talk about why standards for light bulbs are changing.

  • 11:13:50

    MR. JIM PRESSWOODWell, it's just the realization that we need to become more energy efficient in our country. Energy efficiency is one of the best ways to create a win/win situation where we not only decrease pollution, because the pollution that you prevent is actually the cheapest way to reduce pollution, but you also save people money on their energy bills. We estimated that these light bulb standards will save in the neighborhood of $100 to $200 per year on homeowner energy bills by the time they're fully implemented. As well as reduced carbon pollution by about 100 million metric tons per year, which is the equivalent of 17 million cars. That's annual emissions.

  • 11:14:33

    MR. JIM PRESSWOODSo -- and these standards are a great way to really drive innovation to harness our country's market forces to create new technologies that we already have on the shelves today and can deploy in a much wider way if we create the demand for these things.

  • 11:14:48

    REHMNow, how do you respond to Congressman Burgess' concerns, especially in regard to nursing homes and people in enclosed places?

  • 11:14:59

    PRESSWOODWell, with respect to these new light bulbs, I mean, you don't have to get CFLs or compact fluorescent light bulbs. You can get new energy efficient incandescent bulbs like we have in the studio today.

  • 11:15:10

    REHMI see lots of light bulbs in here.

  • 11:15:13

    PRESSWOODThat's right and these light bulbs are about 25 to 30 percent more efficient and they use more efficient incandescent technology. And, you know, they invented the light bulb about 125 years ago, Thomas Edison, and that was before the Model T. That was before your electric refrigerator. It's about time we moved on to a more current technology and we think that's what we have here today.

  • 11:15:37

    REHMLet me understand, from you, Kyle Pitsor. Is there anything that could prevent individual states from passing a law allowing traditional bulbs to go ahead and be used in spite of all these new bulbs?

  • 11:15:55

    MR. KYLE PITSORWell, Diane, the manufacturers have been supportive of these public policies as we move to more energy efficient lighting. We were involved in the 2007 Energy Legislation in part because we saw states starting to enact or propose individual state standards for bulb performance, which would have resulted in the manufacturers making a unique bulb for different states. Of course, that drives up manufacturing costs and creates consumer confusion. And so that's one reason why uniform national standards are very important.

  • 11:16:26

    REHMBut do you see this as effectively a ban on incandescent bulbs?

  • 11:16:33

    PITSORWell, that's one of the major aspects of the legislation is that it continues to provide choices to consumers of more energy efficient incandescent bulbs, CFLs and new advanced LED bulbs. The legislation does not ban the incandescent bulb. That's one of the misunderstandings I think that's out there. If you take today's 100 watt bulb, the standards simply say that this 100 watt now can only consume 72 watts, which is a 28 percent reduction in energy use. And indeed, what we have today, we're demonstrating here these new 72 watt bulbs are available on the market today, same incandescent bulb, dimmable, no mercury. You can use them in your home, same amount of light. This is one of the major...

  • 11:17:19

    REHM100 watts?

  • 11:17:21

    PITSORIt's -- the old 100 watt becomes a 72 watt.

  • 11:17:27

    PRESSWOODThis is a 100 watt and these are the 72 watts.

  • 11:17:28

    REHMHuh. Interesting. Clear or...

  • 11:17:31

    PITSOR...or frosted.

  • 11:17:31

    REHM...or frosted, yeah. Okay. Phil West, obviously consumers are -- you've got some light bulbs here as well. Consumers are going to have to become familiar not only with new terms, but new ways of looking at light.

  • 11:17:50

    MR. PHIL WESTAbsolutely. Well, you think, you know, the incandescent bulbs that we were just discussing in this conversation we just had is indicative of this. We talked about 100 watts and 72 watts, but we've been buying light bulbs for years based on the energy consumed, not by how much light they're actually giving you.

  • 11:18:09

    MR. PHIL WESTSo I went to the grocery store Friday night -- indulge me briefly for a story. I went and I bought two gallons of milk. My kids eat a lot and drink a lot of milk and a couple of pounds of bananas, okay. I bought that because I knew I was going to get two gallons of milk and a couple of pounds of bananas. That's what I wanted. It was the amount I wanted. So there's a term, lumen, which basically is an indicator of the brightness of the bulb. And so we're going to try and help consumers understand that they can actually go out and shop for lumens and not watts.

  • 11:18:35

    REHMGood luck, Phil. Phil West, he's director of the Office of Technology, Advancement and Outreach at the U.S. Department of Energy. Short break and when we come back, we'll start taking your calls with light.

  • 11:20:03

    REHMAnd we're talking about light bulbs in this hour. We have with us Jim Presswood, he's at the Natural -- National Resources Defense Council. Kyle Pitsor, he's with the National Electrical Manufacturers Association, otherwise known as NEMA. And Phil West is director of office technology advancement and outreach at the U.S. Department of Energy. Just before the break, Phil, we were talking about some of these terms that consumers are going to have to become more familiar with. Explain some.

  • 11:20:48

    WESTSo if you're going to go replace a bulb that is a traditional incandescent, inefficient incandescent that you used to think of as a 100 watt bulb...

  • 11:20:56


  • 11:20:58

    WEST...what we hope consumers will start doing is shifting their thinking to, hey, I want a bulb that's about this bright -- back to my gallons of milk analogy. They should look for a bulb that's got about, oh, 1600 lumens, give or take. If they want something dimmer, then go slightly dimmer. If they want to go higher, they can go higher. The higher the lumens, the brighter the bulb. If they're replacing a 60 watt bulb, they can go for something around 800 lumens. The wonderful thing here is they'll have multiple choices they can purchase to meet those lumen levels. They can buy an energy efficient incandescent, a halogen incandescent, a CFL bulb or an LED to meet those lumen levels.

  • 11:21:32

    REHMAnd tell us, explain what the advantages are both in cost and in energy savings.

  • 11:21:41

    WESTWell, sure. So this bulb I have in front of me is a replacement for a 100 watt incandescent -- traditional incandescent. It is an incandescent bulb. It will meet the new standards. In fact, it's on the market today. We bought this at one of the dot coms, actually. It cost $1.80. In the first year, you operate these -- this bulb, it'll save you a couple bucks. So you're gonna pay for itself in the first year. In fact, CFLs -- if you buy a CFL, it pays for itself probably in the first six to nine months. LEDs will pay for themselves as well. They're more expensive now, but they will pay for themselves. I just put...

  • 11:22:11

    REHMBecause they last longer.

  • 11:22:12

    WESTThe last significantly longer. LEDs, in fact -- an Energy Star LED is going to last about 25,000 hours. I was telling my son the other night -- and I'm not sure he quite got it, but I will literally probably send the LED I just put in my son's room, the lamp in my son's room, off to him to college. He's seven years old right now, so probably just send him the -- send him off to college with the LED bulb we bought. We'll be saving money on that. It'll pay itself back in a few years and then we'll be saving money, a significant amount.

  • 11:22:33

    REHMKyle, you want to add to that?

  • 11:22:35

    PITSORWell, just to follow on the issue of the label, one of the aspects here is the new label that will go on lamp packages to assist consumers in making these choices. Looking at lumens, looking at the average cost to operate the bulb, how long the bulb will last, so there'll be more information to consumers to meet -- in selecting their product.

  • 11:22:53

    REHMSo how do you all respond to the congressman's objections? He says he's happy with the way light bulbs are, he doesn't want the government regulating how he should read, what brightness he should use or whatever.

  • 11:23:15

    PITSORWell, I think on the issue of choice, the legislation that starts next year federally, it started in California actually this year, continues to provide consumer choice, in fact, expands consumer choice and he's going to be able to save money in the process. So I think part of this is getting the information out that we're going to be able to continue to buy an incandescent bulb. It's going to cost...

  • 11:23:37

    REHMFor how long?

  • 11:23:39

    PITSORWell, you're going to be able to continue to buy the new 72 bulb that's going to save you 28 percent in your electrical bill.

  • 11:23:44

    REHMYeah, but how long is the congressman going to be able to continue to buy the incandescent bulb?

  • 11:23:52

    WESTWell, I think this -- to make it clear, this incandescent bulb I'm holding right here meets the standard. It meets the standard that will go into effect in 2012. So even though the traditional incandescents will no longer meet that standard in January of 2012, this bulb will.

  • 11:24:04

    PRESSWOODAnd also, by 2020, you know, that is when -- I mean, at least we don't foresee any incandescent technologies on the horizon now that can meet the much more stringent standard in 2020, but by then, we'll have these new LED bulbs that are already on the shelves today and I'm going to turn it on right here. You can tell it's just a 60 watt equivalent LED lamp that has exactly the same kind of performance as a typical incandescent 60 watt lamp, do we're transitioning from the horse and buggy era to the space age with these new energies.

  • 11:24:34

    REHMWhat about that spirally one, I've been seeing at various stores? Have you brought...

  • 11:24:42

    PRESSWOODI sure do.

  • 11:24:42 of those in? And tell me, some people I've spoken to say they don't like those.

  • 11:24:50

    WESTYou know, when they originally came out...

  • 11:24:52


  • 11:24:52

    WEST...I didn't, either. I...

  • 11:24:54

    REHMSee, they're dimmer, clearly dimmer, clearly dimmer.

  • 11:25:01

    WESTThe range on the -- I will say this, in terms of color, when the first ones came out, they tend to be on the blue side of the spectrum.

  • 11:25:07


  • 11:25:07

    WESTI don't like blue light.

  • 11:25:08


  • 11:25:09

    WESTMy house is full of warm CFLs now...

  • 11:25:11


  • 11:25:12

    WEST...warm light CFLs. I believe that's a warm light one you've got there, right?

  • 11:25:16

    PRESSWOODYes. It's a soft light.

  • 11:25:17

    WESTSoft light.

  • 11:25:18

    PITSORAnd we've been tracking the sales of the CFL product and actually, they now capture over 25 percent of the marketplace. And people are buying more of those and fewer incandescent bulbs.

  • 11:25:28

    REHMSo what about these electrical manufacturers? How are they preparing, Kyle, for this transition?

  • 11:25:36

    PITSORWell, following the passage of the legislation in '07, the industry's been moving forward with investment to ramp up over these four years to produce the new energy efficient products that meet the standards, both in the new energy efficient incandescent product, which is starting to become available now and will be fully available starting next year, as well as CFLs, which have always been on the market. Those comply with the new standards and those continue to improve in quality. And the new innovative technologies, like LEDs, those are new technologies.

  • 11:26:06

    REHMGo ahead, Phil.

  • 11:26:08

    WESTSo back to standards and driving innovation, I think if you look at things like the refrigerators -- refrigerators that we used to buy in the '70s -- I didn't buy one, I was younger then, buy my parents did. The refrigerators you buy today are probably 75 percent more efficient than they were then. Standards drove that along with innovation, so sort of this standards help move it along...

  • 11:26:28

    REHMI see.

  • 11:26:28

    WEST...but it drives innovation.

  • 11:26:29


  • 11:26:29

    WESTPeople get smarter about how to build things. I think we'll see that in light bulbs. We're already seeing it in light bulbs because these choices are on the shelves now or in the dot coms now.

  • 11:26:36

    REHMOkay. Give me a comparison cost just in terms of money between the kind of light bulbs we've been using today, an ordinary 100 watt bulb...

  • 11:26:49


  • 11:26:50

    REHM...and what we're going to buy in the future.

  • 11:26:53

    PRESSWOODSure. Well, I just went to Home Depot this morning and bought some new bulbs and the new energy efficient incandescent bulbs would be about 60 -- actually about 50, so those will cost about $1.50. The current incandescent bulb is about 60 cents. But what happens is, you know, you don't just pay that first cost the first time you buy the product. You pay, you know, what it takes to operate it. So a typical incandescent bulb, a 100 watt bulb, takes about $10 per year to operate. And so we calculated these new energy efficient incandescent bulbs will end up saving you $3. So you buy it for $1.50 and you end up saving $3 on your energy bill as a result, so you come out a winner economically.

  • 11:27:39


  • 11:27:40

    PITSORAnd that's one of the pieces of information that will be on the new FTC label, that'll be on bulb packages, will be what the average cost to run the bulb is per year so consumers will be able to be better informed of that.

  • 11:27:51

    REHMThe Congressman raised another point, Phil, and that was in regard to the mercury content. How safe are these bulbs?

  • 11:28:02

    WESTWell, I would say a few things. One, the mercury -- it's a very small amount of mercury in these twisty kind of bulbs that you were referring to earlier. In fact, it's less than -- it's 100th of the old mercury thermometers. Very small. It could fit on top of a ballpoint pen. Secondly, I would say that we've been using fluorescent light bulbs for years and all of them use that technology. They all use mercury. They're in this studio, I've got them at home in the garage, some people have them in their kitchens, so it's not new. It's not tied to this specific legislation.

  • 11:28:30

    WESTAnd then finally, if you look at the -- if you look up the cleanup procedures on the EPA site and you're not comfortable with that and you don't want it in your home, you've got these options for incandescence and the LEDs. And I will say about LEDs, you know, they're emerging now and the costs are higher, but they still pay themselves back because the Energy Star LED is going to last 25 times the length of the...

  • 11:28:49

    REHMOkay. But what about disposal?

  • 11:28:51


  • 11:28:51

    REHMYou didn't talk about that.

  • 11:28:53

    WESTOkay. So I had a personal experience with this recently, actually. We had a contractor come in and drop one of these in the house. And so typically what the EPA says is it's basically a three-step process. You air out the room five to 10 minutes, you sweep up the bulb, clean it up and put it in a sealed container and you dispose of it, you throw it out. And again, if you're not comfortable with those procedures, then move on to something else. You've got other lighting choices that'll all save you money and save you energy.

  • 11:29:19

    PRESSWOODAnd also, I believe Home Depot and IKEA are accepting bulbs for recycling at this point, so you can take them to those stores.

  • 11:29:26

    WESTRight. In fact, I think all or most of that bulb can be recycled.

  • 11:29:30

    REHMBut, you know, if I break an ordinary light bulb, I sweep it up, put it in the trash and that's it.

  • 11:29:40


  • 11:29:41

    REHMSo now what you're saying is people are going to have to use other measures.

  • 11:29:48

    WESTIf they use that -- if they make that choice. That's their choice still. I mean, they can still buy an incandescent light bulb that will meet the standard...

  • 11:29:53


  • 11:29:53

    WEST..and they won't have to do that. If they're not comfortable with that in their house, then they don't have to go there. Or if they want to buy an LED, and these are pretty stout bulbs -- if they want to buy an LED, again, it's going to save you money in the long term. It's a larger investment up front now, but I think as innovation continues to develop on these bulbs, you'll see costs come down as the market picks up.

  • 11:30:10

    REHMAll right. We're going to open the phones 'cause people have lots of questions. First to Miami, Fla. Good morning, Kevin.

  • 11:30:20

    KEVINHi, good morning. I'd like to make a couple of comments. First, that the traditional incandescent bulbs waste up to 85 percent of their energy in just heat. CFLs, I believe, are just a stopgap measure to other technologies such as LEDs. LEDs can last as much as 10 times longer and are available in the different kelvin range, which is what we see as a spectrum of light. Traditional incandescent light produces anywhere from 3,000 to 3,500 kelvin. That's a yellower light than what normally we see in LEDs as a bluish or white light. I'm in the process of renovating my home right now and I'm finding online and in the stores many new and exciting products that are going to save me energy throughout the years.

  • 11:31:10

    REHMWell, aren't you glad he called?

  • 11:31:14

    REHMHe sounds as though he's educated himself. He knows where he's going.

  • 11:31:21

    WESTHe does and I think that's one of the things we've been talking about with retailers is when you go to a store, the point of sale information is so critical. So we're going to be having conversations with retailers about how they're training their associates so they can explain to people, hey, this bulb does cost a little bit more right now, but it's going to save you money. In fact, it'll pay itself back in six months, a year.

  • 11:31:38

    REHMBut you know, I went to a local hardware store, Strosniders the other day, to buy some light bulbs and the clerk, when I picked up the light bulb, he pointed to one of those that you all have and said, don't you want one of these instead? And I said, no, I'm used to using what I use. And he said, well, before long, you're going to have to shift to one of these.

  • 11:32:08

    PRESSWOODThat's just not correct.

  • 11:32:09

    REHMAnd that's not correct.

  • 11:32:10

    PRESSWOODAnd that's not correct. You can buy -- you have more -- as we say, we have more choices. You can buy the more energy efficient incandescent bulb, you can also buy the LED, so that's just not true. That's a misconception we're trying to clear up. I mean, it's taking a little bit of time, but I think we'll get there.

  • 11:32:23

    REHMSo you think you can convince the Congressman?

  • 11:32:28

    PRESSWOODWell, I'm not sure, but hopefully we'll make some progress there as well.

  • 11:32:31

    REHMJim Presswood, he's with the Natural Resources Defense Council and you're listening to "The Diane Rehm Show." Let's go now to Manchester, N.H. Good morning, Jeff.

  • 11:32:47

    JEFFGood morning. I just had a quick question for your commentators.

  • 11:32:50


  • 11:32:52

    JEFFWith it being the -- I agree, amount of mercury in one bulb is rather negligible, let's say, but on the Fannie and Freddie statement, when you buy a house, the mortgage says you cannot store any hazardous materials in your house. Now, let's say you have a good-sized house and you've got, I don't know, 50 bulbs in there, all CFLs. Does that amount of mercury -- is it still so negligible that it's not considered a hazardous material?

  • 11:33:18

    JEFFAnd, you know, what are the implications of that? And then a quick comment and I'll take my answer to the first question off the air, but my comment is, I agree with the caller from Miami in that I think the CFLs are a stopgap in that anyone in the know kind of says that, you know, in the next five years, LEDs are going to be the future of lighting and these CFLs are just temporary measures. So thank you very much...

  • 11:33:44


  • 11:33:44

    JEFF...and I'll take the answer off the air.

  • 11:33:45

    REHMThanks for calling, Jeff. Jim.

  • 11:33:46

    PRESSWOODYes. On the mercury issue, just to follow along here a little bit, you know, our organization, we focus on public health and the environment. We've been doing this kind of work for over 30 years, very concerned about public health issues and our scientists have taken a very close look at this issue and we're confident that these compact fluorescent light bulbs are safe for the public health. And so as far as even if you had 50 bulbs, you would still have less total mercury than you would in an old style thermometer

  • 11:34:16

    PRESSWOODAnd actually, this kind of mercury is not the really dangerous kind of mercury, which is when you burn coal in power plants to produce electricity which powers these bulbs, you actually produce sort of a methyl mercury that actually gets into fish and bio-accumulates. It concentrates as it goes up the food chain. And when you eat that, that actually causes significant birth defects in some kids, so that's a more dangerous kind of mercury...

  • 11:34:41

    REHMAll right.

  • 11:34:41

    PRESSWOOD...and that's what we're avoiding with these compact fluorescent bulbs.

  • 11:34:43

    REHMOkay. To Deerfield Beach, Fla. Hi, Barbara.

  • 11:34:48

    BARBARAHello. My problem with CFLs or fluorescent lights in general is the high pitched sound they give off. It's very disconcerting to me, which is one reason I haven't changed to them in my house. Does anybody -- has anybody else ever experienced that, walking into a store that's brightly lit with a fluorescent light? The sound is just annoying.

  • 11:35:13

    REHMAll right. Kyle.

  • 11:35:14

    PITSORYes, Barbara. One of the things you'd be wanting to look for is an Energy Star CFL. The Energy Star program has developed specifications to address the harmonics which you're speaking to in terms of the buzzing noise. It also addresses the startup time and to full brightness time of the CFL, such that it needs to be fully bright within a minute of starting. So I'd be looking for an Energy Star product to address that.

  • 11:35:38

    REHMBut what are you saying? Do those Energy Star products then lose that buzzing after a certain period of time?

  • 11:35:49

    PITSORWell, the buzzing is a result of the ballast and the harmonics or the electronics in the light bulb and an Energy Star light bulb has specifications. The companies that are participating in the Energy Star program meet those specifications to address the harmonics.

  • 11:36:04


  • 11:36:05

    WESTI might add that I'm familiar with what you're speaking of. I have my house full of compact fluorescents and I've now got some LEDs. And I've -- in the compact fluorescents, I've not noticed a single buzzing issue at all, never an issue in our house.

  • 11:36:18

    REHMInteresting. One other thought and that is, are we all going to have to buy new lamps?

  • 11:36:27

    PITSORThe standards apply to general service light bulbs. Not your specialty bulbs, your chandelier bulbs or your three-way bulbs. Those bulbs are not covered by these new requirements starting next year and the bulbs are basically being designed to fit existing fixtures.

  • 11:36:42

    REHMNow, isn't there an exception to, like, refrigerator or stove bulbs?

  • 11:36:50

    PRESSWOODYes. Those are exempted from this particular standard.

  • 11:36:52

    REHMThey're exempted. Now, why is that?

  • 11:36:55

    PRESSWOODThey're not covered.

  • 11:36:56

    PITSORWell, the specialty bulbs, appliance bulbs, chandelier bulbs, candelabra based bulbs, these are more niche products, specialty products. These are not your general service light bulbs. And in the legislation '07, those were exempted from coverage.

  • 11:37:11

    REHMOkay. We're going to take a short break here and we'll be talking more about light bulbs when we come back with Jim Presswood, Kyle Pitsor and Phil West. I look forward to hearing your calls, 800-433-8850. Send us your e-mail to

  • 11:40:04

    REHMAnd joining us now from the University of California at Irvine, Oladele Ogunseitan. Good morning to you, sir. Thanks for joining us.

  • 11:40:18

    MR. OLADELE OGUNSEITANGood morning, Diane. Thank you for having me.

  • 11:40:20

    REHMTell us about your new study of lighting technologies.

  • 11:40:24

    OGUNSEITANSo we focus on LEDs and I appreciate the comments that speakers have offered on your show this morning. So we didn't publish anything about incandescents or compact fluorescent light bulbs. We essentially look that whether or not light-emitting diodes, LEDs, should be considered hazardous waste, primarily at the end of their life -- useful life. The reason is that LEDs have a special category of light. They come in different colors that make them suitable for very different applications in the household. They also are extremely energy efficient, they last long and they are very small. So, for example, I've seen them used in things as varied as pacifiers for adults and children, if you can believe that. Night lights, touch lights, Christmas lights and all kinds of applications.

  • 11:41:38

    OGUNSEITANSo some of these are small enough that people don't typically use them for too long before they are tired of them and throw them out. And we used federal standards and methods, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, and we also used California standards, according to the Department of Toxic Substances in California. And what we found was tremendous reliable in what will leak out of these LED light bulbs when you subject them to conditions that simulate a worst case scenario in a landfill.

  • 11:42:23

    REHMWhat do you mean?

  • 11:42:24

    OGUNSEITANUsually what -- we try to separate domestic waste from hazardous waste based on what kinds of toxic chemicals will leak out of the product. If you subject it to things like mild acidic conditions over a period of time. And this is traditional, well accepted technique. Lead is one of the things we are particularly concerned about and we did find that some types of LED light bulbs leak out lead excessively. According to federal standards, more than 30 times the amount of lead that's permissible.

  • 11:43:11

    REHMPhil West, do you want to comment on that?

  • 11:43:15

    WESTI can simply say that we're aware of the study he did an we're going to be working with our federal partners to look at it and look at the research techniques and also specifically what was actually tested and what was not tested.

  • 11:43:25


  • 11:43:27

    REHMWouldn't that kind of concern about disposal raise the cost of disposal? Kyle.

  • 11:43:37

    PITSORWell, I think one of the issues we want to look at at the study and we haven't fully evaluated is in terms of which LEDs were actually analyzed 'cause for general lighting purposes, we're using high-output LEDs.

  • 11:43:48


  • 11:43:48

    PITSORAnd I understand that some of the studies have looked at some of these low-output LEDs used in Christmas tree lights and such, which are a totally different type of an LED.

  • 11:43:56

    REHMI think the other concern that the professor has is preparation by consumers or the state's preparation in California of those very consumers. You, I gather, feel that consumers didn't quite understand what they were getting into.

  • 11:44:26

    OGUNSEITANWell, I think California lawyers are certainly progressive. They tried to anticipate risk and encourage industry to do better and I think that's really the fundamental goal that we all have, that, you know, we set energy standards that we all try to meet and innovation and creativity have to play a part. But so do consumer education and participation in the process. I'm a little concerned, for example, that EPA -- you know, yeah, we've heard a lot about the amount of mercury and CFLs being very small, but it's essentially shifting the risk to the consumer and there's a little bit of cost in taking things to hazardous waste collection site that we have to include in all of the analysis.

  • 11:45:23

    OGUNSEITANI also don't think we should just say, throw the mercury into the trash after you pack it in a sealed container, I think that we need to really educate consumers about the differences between regular domestic waste like yard waste and food waste and some of these metals. It's also about manufacturing processes. We have a toxic (word?) that has grown in the country. That's partly successes was made in policy. We need to protect workers who manufacture these, where ever in the world they may be.

  • 11:46:00

    OGUNSEITANAnd we need to educate consumers very strongly about recycling and to make sure that the infrastructure to support recycling is also available at every grocery store, for example. I think that will be one of the investments we can make to make this transition without additional risks.

  • 11:46:22

    REHMAll right. Sir, I want to thank you so much for joining us. Kyle Pitsor, do you have a response?

  • 11:46:32

    PITSORWell, I think the point raised -- a very point was raised and that is the consumer education piece and getting consumers aware of these changes...

  • 11:46:40


  • 11:46:40 address their anxieties about change. People are anxious about change typically and so -- I mean, NEMA has developed a number of outreach pieces of information. We have a new piece on that provides the information on the five Ls of lighting, we call that. And we encourage people to we encourage people to use those resources, retailers to use them, utilities. There's a lot of outreach that will be taking place over the next months.

  • 11:47:04


  • 11:47:06

    WESTI love the nutritions facts label that shows up on all our food products now, we use them all the time, so the FDC is now putting out a label -- lighting facts label for manufacturers and you'll start to see -- in fact, it's already on some packaging now. You'll see it roll out, certainly by January of next year that makes it very clear for consumers what kind of -- whether they're getting a warm or a cool or a yellow or a blue kind of light, what the lumen level or the brightness of the bulb is and how much energy it's using, that (word?) help tremendously.

  • 11:47:34

    REHMAll right. Let's go to back to the phones to Phoenix, Ariz. Good morning, Nick.

  • 11:47:41

    NICKHi. I've replaced all the bulbs in my house with the CFLs a couple of years ago and I've noticed some of them, not all of them, seem to burn out early, like eight or nine months. And even a couple of times, I have two instances where the bulb actually in the socket and, you know, luckily I was there both times and I'm just worried what could've happened if I wasn't there. And I'm wondering what experts have to say about that. Is that very common? These are open socket, they're not enclosings, nothing's enclosed, so the heat can disperse and that just scared me a lot, so I've started backing out of the CFL (unintelligible).

  • 11:48:17

    REHMYeah, I'll bet. Kyle.

  • 11:48:19

    PITSORWell, a couple of comments, thoughts here. One is, of course, the fixtures are rated for a maximum wattage. I just want to make sure you're using the bulb that puts the right -- you don't want to over -- put too much wattage into the fixtures. Secondly, that at end of life, there are some rare instances where CFLs have an unpassive where the heat causes the plastic to burn a little bit and it creates an odor and that happens very rarely. That might be what he's referring to as some of the failures. And also, you also have products -- I want to make sure you are applying them in the right socket such that if you're dimming -- if you're dimming light bulbs, you need to make sure you buy a CFL that's for dimming purposes because not all CFLs are dimmable.

  • 11:49:03

    PRESSWOODAnd also...go ahead.

  • 11:49:03

    NICKYes, yes, I'm aware of the dimming thing and actually, one of the bulbs came with the lamp that I bought, so it was -- I know it was built for it or it should've been okay, so that just really concerned me. The other one was just one I bought, like it was in my bathroom and I don't know. It just -- it -- like you said, you're right, it burned at the socket, but it blinked and smoke came and it was a pretty bad smell, so.

  • 11:49:26

    REHMInteresting. Jim, you wanted to comment.

  • 11:49:28

    PRESSWOODYeah. And just as far as, you know, how widespread or any sort of indications as to this happening elsewhere, USA Today and Gallup did a recent poll on what consumers thought about these new CFLs that they replaced incandescent bulbs with. And over 80 percent of those who did the replacement were actually quite satisfied with the results, so maybe that's that a more rigorous analysis of, you know, what the acceptance is.

  • 11:49:56


  • 11:49:56

    PRESSWOODSo we think that there's a lot of potential there.

  • 11:49:59

    REHMAnd the congressman also talked about loss of jobs in this country. He spoke particularly about Virginia, West Virginia jobs going to China. Are manufacturers opening new plants in this country? Kyle.

  • 11:50:18

    PITSORWell, the jobs issue is the industry's been investing heavily as part of this transition. Obviously a decision on where you manufacture, where you do your RND for lighting manufacturers, just like all manufacturers, is driven by tax policy, regulatory policies and other structural costs. In the new technologies, we're seeing heavily -- we're seeing investment, we're seeing more jobs in some of the new technology development, so that the whole picture of incandescent, fluorescent and LED, you have a combined picture of continued U.S. manufacturing.

  • 11:50:53

    PRESSWOODAnd also, you know, just some of the data we found, we found that, you know, several thousand jobs have been created, you know, creating these new advanced products, LED products. And for example, like CREE in North Carolina, they added several hundred jobs over the last couple of years to manufacture new LEDs. TCP in Ohio actually is building a manufacturing facility in that state to create compact fluorescent lighting. So there -- also, Sylvania Osram in Pennsylvania, they're adding jobs to, you know, produce these new incandescent bulbs.

  • 11:51:27

    REHMAt the same time, one wonders about the equivalency factor. The equivalence between jobs created here, jobs going overseas. Kyle.

  • 11:51:37

    PITSORWell, I think in the -- I mean, we look at the U.S. and we've always been an innovator. Innovation, I think, creates new opportunities, new jobs and I think this is a real exciting, dynamic time in the lighting industry for consumers as well as for the manufacturers.

  • 11:51:52

    REHMBut that doesn't tell me that you're getting the equivalent number of jobs creating here in this country.

  • 11:52:00

    PITSORWell, we look -- you have to look at worker productivity, other investment scenarios. We're in a global marketplace, we're competing internationally and so companies have to make -- weigh those equations based on their individual company demands.

  • 11:52:13

    PRESSWOODAnd another aspect of this, I mean, 27 -- over 27 countries have already made this transition and to the extent that the United States creates markets with these new standards, we are more likely to see manufacturing locating here close to market.

  • 11:52:26

    REHMAll right. To Jeremy in Jacksonville, N.C. Good morning.

  • 11:52:33

    JEREMYGood morning, Diane. Hi, how are ya?

  • 11:52:35

    REHMGood, thanks.

  • 11:52:35

    JEREMYI just had a quick statement and then a question that I can take off the air. The first statement was for the congressman earlier, I was just curious, I mean, if we're not going to be wanting to regulate energy standards and that kind of stuff. And if he's concerned about how he looks in the light and everything, I would think that maybe we need to start moving back towards candles and whale oil being lit. But seriously, I'm curious for the callers on right now, my interest is actually what provides the most natural, full spectrum light that's, you know, similar to what the sun provides and I can take my question off the air. Thank you.

  • 11:53:21

    REHMAll right. Thanks for calling. Phil West, how do you respond?

  • 11:53:26

    WESTI would say -- actually, I kind of have an answer relative to the specifics of the spectrum, but you -- I will say this, the manufacturers are producing light bulbs that -- on a wide range of the spectrum. As I mentioned before, some of the earlier ones that came out in the efficient product line tend -- to be tended to be blue or at least on my perception, however, the ranges now are quite impressive. You can go to the store, you can see quite a wide range so whether you want a white light or a cool light or a warm light, you've got those choices to save you money as well as the different types.

  • 11:53:54

    REHMAll right. And you're listening to "The Diane Rehm Show." Now, to Grand Rapids, Mich. and to Alex. Good morning.

  • 11:54:05

    ALEXHi, good morning. I represent a company out of Grand Rapids, Mich. that distributes LED lights and a lot of the concerns that have been raised about compact fluorescent, LEDs and incandescents honestly can be solved by going to an LED light bulb. They last longer, up to 100,000 hours from CREE Manufacturers, which is the one that we distribute, as well as being more environmentally friendly for the disposal. The casing that we have is completely made of 100 percent aluminum.

  • 11:54:32

    ALEXAnd I'm not sure why people are not talking more about going to LEDs, especially because the commercial fronts that are being supplied by major lighting distributors, they are currently going through all sorts of different light bulbs every month and places like Consumers Energy, which supplies the energy for most of Michigan where we're based out of, they have incentives for consumers to switch to LEDs, offering them rebates on bulbs. And the commercial front use far more energy for lighting than any residential front.

  • 11:55:06

    REHMAll right. Jim.

  • 11:55:06

    PRESSWOODYeah, we're very excited about LED technology and it's -- as we've shown you, I mean, these bulbs are pretty amazing things here.

  • 11:55:14

    REHMThey look funny (laugh).

  • 11:55:15

    PRESSWOODOh, yeah, they do, but they put out the same kind of light. They have this little yellow cap on it, but it turns into a white light. It's sort of a neat technology. We're actually into, you know, high-tech technologies here as opposed to horse and buggy, you know, Thomas Edison incandescent. But as far as the environmental impacts of LEDs that, you know, the previous caller and also our expert we had on made some, you know, fair points as far as, you know, we need to be mindful of some of these toxins. But, you know, NRDC, we're working with the electronics industry, trying to come up with better inputs into that technology so we can avoid some of that.

  • 11:55:52

    PRESSWOODAs well as, you know, throughout our entire electronics industry you have issues as far as disposal. I mean, our computers, our high-def televisions, all those technologies, we have to be mindful of their disposal.

  • 11:56:01

    REHMIsn't there some question also about switching on and off, that, in fact, they don't last as long when you switch them on and off?

  • 11:56:13

    PITSORI think, Diane, relative to compact fluorescent lighting, if you do a lot of frequent switching...

  • 11:56:18


  • 11:56:18

    PITSORSuch as if you're switching it on and off every five minutes...

  • 11:56:22

    REHMWell, nobody's going to do that.

  • 11:56:23

    PITSORThat's where the issues come in, when it's that kind of frequent switching. If you're turning it on, leaving on for 15 minutes or longer, life is not impacted.

  • 11:56:30

    REHMIt's not a problem.

  • 11:56:32

    PITSORNo. If you're 15 minutes or more.

  • 11:56:35

    REHMSo do you all think that this is it or is the technology in process. Phil.

  • 11:56:42

    WESTOh, it'll continue to change, which is the wonderful thing about both innovation in general and the innovative American spirit that's driven this country for so long, so I think -- I'm excited to see what happens.

  • 11:56:53

    REHMPhil West of the U.S. Department of Energy, Kyle Pitsor of the National Electric Manufacturers Association, Jim Presswood of the Natural Resources Defense Council. We've got lots of links on our website to take you to more information about this new technology. Thanks for listening, all. I'm Diane Rehm.

  • 11:57:22

    ANNOUNCER"The Diane Rehm Show" is produced by Sandra Pinkard, Nancy Robertson, Susan Nabors, Denise Couture and Monique Nazareth. The engineer is Erin Stamper. Dorie Anisman answers the phones. Visit for audio archives, transcripts, podcasts and CD sales.

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