The Boston Globe has been aflame of late with articles about ... please insert weary sigh here .. light bulbs. Last Thursday, a story quoted a North Andover, Mass., woman who fretted that a thriving planet is all well and fine, but what good is it if newfangled efficient lighting ruins the look of a chandelier?
On an e-mail thread, one commenter suggested that the North Andover woman broaden her horizons by taking a trip to the East Africa famine zone, where chances are most of the locals have other things on their minds than chandelier aesthetics.
Ouch. I have another suggestion for a place she might visit to get some perspective, one more relevant to the issue at hand. Keep reading, I'll get to it.
The following day, writer Joan Wickersham revealed in a Globe op-ed that she and her husband have been arguing about light bulbs - she doesn't like the "cold wormy light" of compact fluorescents, he thinks that energy efficiency is more important than personal taste in bulbs.
Joan, her husband, and the North Andover woman might have overlooked the L Prize ceremony that took place in Washington, DC last Wednesday. There, in a ceremony hosted by two senators, New Mexico Democrat Jeff Bingaman and Alaska Republican Lisa Murkowski, Philips Lighting received the Department of Energy's L Prize for a 10-watt LED that puts out as much light as a 60-watt conventional incandescent bulb. The prize-winning bulb could be in stores near you by early next year.
The L Prize judges put the LED through its paces - demonstrating that it could last 25,000 hours, which works out to about 17 years if you leave the light on four hours a day. The LED also had to suck it up through high and low temperatures, as well as humidity, vibration, voltage variations, and electrical waveform distortions. Philips won a prize of $10 million along with promotion incentives.
DOE estimated that if the 10-watt LED fully replaced the 60-watt incandescent bulb - about 425 million 60-watters are sold every year - the U.S. would cut its electricity consumption by 35,000 gigawatt-hours per year. In layman's terms, that works out to almost 1 percent of the nation's total electricity consumption in 2010.
The technology will be ready soon. The trick, however, will be convincing consumers that a 10-watt LED that is six times more efficient than a conventional incandescent and will last years, not months, is a good buy.
That sales job will require breaking through the gunk of disinformation about lighting efficiency standards that has been spread by attention-seeking talk radio entertainers, including one Rush Limbaugh, who last month said. "Let there be incandescent light and freedom. That's the American way."
Rush, go tell it to the Marines. Specifically, tell Marines Col. Bob Charette, who is working to deploy energy technologies that will reduce dependence on fuel convoys that get Marines killed. In an interview with EnergyBiz magazine, Col. Charette laid out a few of the changes he's pushing: insulated tents, solar blankets that charge up radios on patrol, and ... listen closely, Rush ... LED lighting for tents.
That would be a good thing for the North Andover woman to see: how efficient lighting is keeping U.S. Marines safer in Afghanistan.
Enter your city or zip code to get your local temperature and air quality and find local green food and recycling resources near you.