State panel supports bill to ban sale of incandescent light bulbs

Times Staff Writer

A bill that would ban the sale of traditional, energy-hogging incandescent light bulbs by 2012 got the green light Monday in a first legislative vote.

Replacing incandescent bulbs with high-efficiency compact fluorescent bulbs would be good for the environment and consumers’ pocketbooks, said Assemblyman Lloyd Levine (D-Van Nuys), chairman of the Utilities and Commerce Committee.

The proposal, AB 722, cleared Levine’s committee on a 7-2 tally.


“You can replace just about any bulb in the house and can save a significant amount of money,” he said, about $62 over the life of the bulb. The squiggly compact fluorescent bulbs cost about $3 each, compared with 50 cents for an incandescent bulb, but they last as much as 10 times longer, Levine said.

Eliminating the use of most incandescent bulbs in California would help combat global warming by keeping an estimated 1.82 million metric tons of carbon dioxide emissions from entering the atmosphere, a committee analysis noted.

The bill received a sympathetic hearing, even from the two Republicans who voted against it. But representatives of all three major light bulb manufacturing companies and the lighting industry said they preferred legislation that would set state efficiency standards for all lights, rather than prohibit a single type.

“We cannot support any specific product ban,” said Peter Weiner, a lobbyist for Osram Sylvania Inc., which makes both incandescent and compact fluorescent bulbs.

A bill by Assemblyman Jared Huffman (D-San Rafael) that would impose strict efficiency criteria on bulbs that use incandescent, fluorescent, light-emitting diode or other technologies is moving through the Assembly.

Levine and Huffman promised to work together on a possible compromise that is “technology neutral.”

That approach would assist General Electric Co. in developing a new generation of incandescent bulbs that would “be substantially more efficient, approaching or exceeding some of the more-efficient lamps in the marketplace,” lobbyist Eric Newman said.

GE, the company Thomas A. Edison founded in the late 1800s and the largest light bulb maker in the U.S., announced in February that the new bulbs would be available in stores by 2010.

Republican members of the committee said they wanted industry to come up with the best products to meet California efficiency standards.

“I’m concerned that it’s becoming a mandate,” Assemblyman Cameron Smyth (R-Santa Clarita) said.

Levine, however, said he drafted his bill to specifically target incandescent bulbs because he wants to send a message to the public that compact fluorescent bulbs are ideal lighting substitutes.

“I want to break the myth about what these bulbs are,” he said. Myths include claims that the latest compacts don’t provide warm light, don’t turn on instantly, can’t be used in chandeliers and can’t be dimmed, Levine said.

He said that similar bans were being developed by the governments of Australia, the European Union, Britain and several Canadian provinces.

Critics of the bulbs contend that compact fluorescent bulbs can cast a harsh light and in rare cases can cause migraine headaches and skin reactions for some highly sensitive people. Environmentalists also caution that the bulbs contain trace amounts of mercury and must be disposed of at special facilities for household toxic waste.