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Phase-Out of Incandescent Light Bulbs Costing American Jobs


General Electric closed this lighting plant in Virginia because it produced incandescent light bulbs and the transition to producing compact florescent bulbs was deemed too expensive

General Electric closed this lighting plant in Virginia because it produced incandescent light bulbs and the transition to producing compact florescent bulbs was deemed too expensive

The United States will soon join countries in Asia, Europe and Latin America in phasing out less efficient incandescent light bulbs. The global shift to using more energy saving light bulbs means job losses for some and an opportunity to make more money for others.

Greg Pitta has been coming to work at this General Electric lighting plant since he was 23 years old. But this well-driven route is now just a memory.

"I mean everybody who's in there [is] sad," Pitta noted. "One day you have a job, the next day you don't. That was you future. Your future's gone."

Close to 200 people lost their jobs in September when GE closed its incandescent light bulb plant in the state of Virginia.

"When the time comes it still hurts the same amount," added Pitta.

The closing of this plant reflects a change in the industry that started with a law passed in 2007 that will require all Americans to use more efficient light bulbs by 2014


"The incandescent bulb has reached the end. It's on its way out," explained Ellis Yan who heads U.S.-based Technical Consumer Products (TCP).

TCP makes compact fluorescent light bulbs (CFLs) which are more energy-efficient. Even though 80 percent of his bulbs end up in the United States, Yan makes all of his CFL bulbs in China, where labor is much cheaper.

"You're talking about a 40 to 50 cent difference, 45 to 50 cent difference between a bulb made in the U.S.A. and a bulb made in China," added Yan.

Yan says CFLs are more expensive to make than incandescent light bulbs. It is a labor-intensive process, with each bulb being hand-made by skilled glass blowers.

GE says it considered turning its incandescent plant into one that makes CFLs, but it was just too expensive, leaving plant worker Patrick Doyle without a job.

"It's frustrating and it does kind of anger me the jobs are going out of the country," said Doyle.

But Americans are not the only ones losing their jobs. Yan plans to reduce his work force in China from 14,000 people to 5,000 by the end of the year - by installing new, high-tech machines to mass-produce the CFLs more efficiently.

Yan also says he wants to open a plant in the U.S. to make CFLs, despite the higher labor cost,

"I believe people are willing to buy it willing to pay extra because made in USA," added Yan.

To prove his point, Yan says he plans on hiring 350 workers and opening his U.S. plant within the next 18 months.

And even thought GE is cutting jobs at its Virginia plant, it is expanding its production plant in Ohio which makes linear fluorescent lights. The plant is expected to hire more than 130 workers over the next few years, doubling its workforce.

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