Is Thomas Edison's most famous invention, the incandescent light bulb, about to fizzle into obscurity?
Thanks to global warming, the ban-the-bulb movement is gaining strength. Australian officials and European lighting manufacturers have announced phaseouts of the energy-draining bulb. A California legislator has proposed a ban. Now, in a move that could speed the move away from the 128-year-old invention, some of the world's largest bulbmakers have joined environmental groups and the California Energy Commission in talks that could lead to a phaseout in the US within a decade, sources say.
The scope of the move – and manufacturers' support of it – is still undecided, they add. "We're talking about a 10-year phaseout of incandescents, but there's no plan on paper on how to do that yet," says a source close to the talks who, lacking authorization to speak to media, asked not to be identified. "We're thinking through and seeking answers to a number of questions," said the source, noting the talks could yet fail.
The negotiations – which could yield a phaseout of incandescents for the huge California market, or perhaps affect the product line in most of the nation – are taking place amid evidence of a rising anti-incandescent clamor.
• On Monday in Paris, the European Lamp Companies Federation, a trade group of lighting manufacturers in the European Union, unveiled a pact to phase out incandescent bulbs, without specifying a deadline.
• Last week, Australians officials announced a phaseout of incandescents bulbs by 2009.
• In California, state lawmaker Lloyd Levine in January introduced a bill that would ban the sale of incandescent bulbs statewide by 2012.
"We are definitely seeing a trend with some leaders in the lighting industry proposing a ... shift away from incandescent to higher-efficiency technologies," says William Prindle of the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy.