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Life of Incandescent Light Bulbs may Soon Burn Out


From Australia to California efforts are underway to phase out the traditional, incandescent light bulb. Wal-Mart, the world's largest retailer, is getting into the act. It has announced a campaign to more than double its sales of more efficient, compact florescent bulbs by 2008. VOA's Paul Sisco reports.

Thomas Edison perfected the incandescent light bulb 128 years ago... lighting up a nation and the world ever since.

Many would prefer those bulbs be switched off today and replaced with compact fluorescent bulbs, which are up to 70 percent more efficient.

Environmentalist Mike Tidwell says their use can save money and energy. "[With them there is] dramatically less money you're spending for electricity -- and you fight global warming. It's pretty simple."

Just five percent of the electricity in a standard bulb is used to light it. The rest is heat. Not so with these fluorescents. They provide the same light without the heat, reducing the demand for electricity from coal-fired power plants that produce carbon dioxide and contribute to global warming.

To reduce its greenhouse gases, Australian officials hope to phase out incandescent light bulb use by 2009. And they have launched an educational campaign to do just that.

Malcolm Turnbull, the Australian Environmental Minister says, "[If] the whole world switched to these bulbs today, we would reduce our consumption of electricity by an amount equal to five times Australia's annual consumption of electricity."

Legislators in the western U.S. state of California are debating a similar proposal. And Wal-Mart, the world’s largest retailer, has announced a drive to sell 100 million compact fluorescent bulbs a year by 2008. The chain sold 40 million in 2005.

Noah Horowitz is with the Natural Resources Defense Council in the United States. He says we can eliminate the use of coal burning power plants. "So, once we make the shift, roughly 10 years from now, we'll eliminate the need for about 50 to 75 coal burning power plants, and we'll cut our nation's electricity bill by over $10 billion a year."

The U.S. Department of Energy says the three to four billion incandescent light bulbs in America's homes and businesses use about 10 percent of all U.S. electricity. Federal officials say switching to compact florescent bulbs could significantly reduce energy demands every year.