California Dims the Incandescent Bulb California Dims the Incandescent Bulb
The Planet

California Dims the Incandescent Bulb

by Ben Jervey

January 6, 2011
As of this past Saturday, January 1, 2011, standard 100-watt incandescent light bulbs are being phased off of California store shelves. Bulbs that were manufactured before January 1 or already on store shelves can still be legally sold and purchased, but no more of the low-tech, energy sucking bulbs can be brought to market in California.

The California Energy Commission is quick to claim that this is not a "ban" on incandescent bulbs, but rather a new energy efficiency standard. In fact, it's the same standard that was passed by Congress and signed into federal law by George W. Bush, which will go into effect on January 1, 2012. As is so often the case, California legislators decided to get ahead of the rest of the nation.

According to the CEC, "California has enacted the federal standards one year earlier to avoid the sale of 10.5 million inefficient 100-watt bulbs in 2011 which would cost consumers $35.6 million in unnecessarily higher electricity bills (Source: PG&E Case Study)."

As for the New Year's roll-out date, Renee Montagne pointed out a quirky coincidence on Morning Edition: "So incidentally, it was on New Year's Eve in 1879 that Thomas Edison first demonstrated his newfangled incandescent light bulb to the public."

That's Edison in the image above, holding up his original invention. It's equal bits amazing and confounding that in this time of rapid technological advancement, when a 3G mobile phone is outdated in under 12 months, that there are plenty of people griping about updating a tech product that has barely changed in 121 years.

There have been some rumblings about Californians hoarding incandescents in anticipation of the ban. I'd love to hear stories if anyone has them.

Ben Jervey More Info

Ben is a writer and editor covering climate change, energy, and environment, and is currently the Climate and Energy Media Fellow at Vermont Law School. He was the original Environment Editor at GOOD Magazine and his work has appeared regularly in National Geographic News, Grist, DeSmogBlog, and OnEarth. He recently worked with the non-profit Focus the Nation to publish an Energy 101 primer. When living in New York City, he wrote a book, The Big Green Apple, on how to live a lower impact life in the city. A bicycle enthusiast, Ben has ridden across the United States and through much of Europe.
Some recent articles by Ben Jervey:
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California Dims the Incandescent Bulb