Editor’s Note: EarthTechling, always looking to forward the cleantech revolution discussion, is proud to bring you this column via a cross post from partner Natural Resources Defense Council. Author credit goes to Rocky Kistner.
At GE’s historic 90-acre Nela Park in Cleveland–home to America’s first industrial park and to GE Lighting–a light bulb revolution is underway that could help solve one of the world’s greatest environmental threats: climate change.
Tucked away in a brick lab building of this leafy technology research campus, veteran GE lighting engineer and physicist Gary Allen reviews a chart of global greenhouse gas emissions that points in one direction—up. But, Allen says, there’s a simple step we can take to curtail these emissions and change course; screw in a more efficient light bulb. “The number one thing we can do to cut greenhouse gas emissions is to change our light bulbs….it’s the strongest lever we have to get CO2 emissions out of the atmosphere. So if you are going to spend money on anything, spend it on energy efficient lighting.”
And there’s one more advantage to the light bulb revolution; jobs. Last year, GE invested $60 million to produce energy efficient florescent bulbs at its plant in Bucyrus, OH, creating about 100 new positions in job-hungry Ohio. And there are thousands of jobs posted on GE Lighting’s website now.
For the past 24 years, Allen has been a key engineer and physicist at GE’s world-renowned lighting research center (check out his Twitter page here), where many of the 700 people who work there toil away on the latest lighting product designs and strategies. All that tinkering in the labs has paid off. Today there are more money saving, energy efficient bulbs on the market than ever before, including advanced incandescents, compact fluorescent and LEDs.
And more are on the way. Industry powerhouses like GE, Sylvania and Philips are all coming out with dozens of new lighting products that will result in huge energy savings—and help save us all from the dire consequences of a rapidly changing climate. (Check out the January Consumer Reports issue on new efficient light bulbs). Anyone who still wonders if the threat is real should check out new figures released for greenhouse gas emissions; they jumped to record levels last year during a global recession. Just wait until a global recovery takes hold.
Why are efficient light bulbs so important? Simple, there are billions of them. Think about the last time you flew on a cloudless night and gazed at the millions of lights twinkling below, spread out along the darkened landscape like an electronic tapestry. Most are burning wasted heat (the old fashioned incandescent bulb wastes 90% of its energy), sucking money out of consumer wallets every time they flip the switch.