Following up on a pledge President Obama he made in February, The Department of Energy is moving fast to upgrade the energy efficiency standards that affect a range of consumer products -- most notably, lightbulbs.
For decades, presidents have ignored, obscured and otherwise delayed Congressional mandates, upheld repeatedly by the courts, to improve the energy efficiency of consumer appliances, electronics, lightbulbs and other products. In February, Obama signed a presidential memorandum requesting that the Department of Energy set new efficiency standards for common household appliances.
The greatest untapped energy source in America is energy efficiency. Using less electricity is the cheapest, cleanest possible way to power the U.S. lifestyle with the least sacrifice.
"One of the fastest, easiest, and cheapest ways to make our economy stronger and cleaner is to make our economy more energy efficient," Obama said Monday, announcing the first set of upgrades. "That's why we made energy efficiency investments a focal point of the Recovery Act. And that's why today's announcements are so important. By bringing more energy efficient technologies to American homes and businesses, we won't just significantly reduce our energy demand; we'll put more money back in the pockets of hardworking Americans."
The first of the products that will have upgraded energy efficiency standards include a range of lamps (general service fluorescent lamps (GSFL), which are commonly found in residential and commercial buildings, and incandescent reflector lamps (IRL), which are commonly used in recessed and track lighting). Lighting represents 7% of U.S. energy use (the last of the new standards will be announced in 2011). The new lighting standards will reduce pollution equivalent to that produced by 166 million cars, negate the need for 15 small coal-fired power plants, and will save U.S. consumers more than $1 billion annually once the standards take effect in 2012, according to Department of Energy estimates.
In addition to lamps, the government plans to spend $346 million on developing more efficient buildings (including $70 million targeted at training local builders in best practices), a step the Department of Energy explained will be as mundane -- insulation, energy efficient windows -- as it is revolutionary:
Residential and commercial buildings consume 40 percent of the energy and represent 40 percent of the carbon emissions in the United States. Building efficiency represents one of the easiest, most immediate and most cost effective ways to reduce carbon emissions while creating new jobs. With the application of new and existing technologies, buildings can be made up to 80 percent more efficient or even become "net zero" energy buildings with the incorporation of on-site renewable generation.
Today's buildings consume more energy than any other sector of the U.S. economy, including transportation and industry. In addition, almost three-quarters of our nation's 81 million buildings were built before 1979. Some were designed and constructed for limited service, and many will eventually require either significant retrofits or replacement.
Innovations in energy-efficient building envelopes, equipment, lighting, daylighting, and windows, in conjunction with advances in passive solar, photovoltaic, fuel cells, advanced sensors and controls and combined heating, cooling, and power, have the potential to dramatically transform today's buildings. These technologies -- coupled with a whole building design approach that optimizes the interactions among building systems and components -- will enable tomorrow's buildings to use considerably less energy, while also helping to reduce emissions and increase energy security.
Among the other products that will become more energy efficient with -- presumably -- fewer delays:
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