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Lane Wesley Burt

Lane Wesley Burt

Posted March 2, 2009 | 03:37 PM (EST)

Time for You to Weigh In On the Biggest Potential Energy Saving Standard in History

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I have blogged a couple times about the current rulemaking on lamps (bulbs) being undertaken by the Department of Energy. I won't rehash much, but it is the largest potential energy saver of any appliance standard in the program's history. More than refrigerators, more than air conditioners, more than anything. It covers tube fluorescent lamps and incandescent lamps that are put in "cans," which are recessed, reflector-ized fixtures.

These savings are the reasons you should care,
• 15.8 quadrillion BTUs of energy
• $65.3 billion of consumer dollars spent on energy
• 5900 MW of generating capacity
• 799 million metric tons of CO2
• 1265 kilotons of NOx
• 11 tons of mercury

Mind blowing numbers.

We issued an action alert to our online activists, asking them to weigh in last week. Maybe you haven't signed up for the alerts yet. (Why not? Do it here.)  Maybe you just forgot, so this is your reminder.

You need to tell DOE what you think, because they are listening. Our new Secretary of Energy is a Nobel Prize winning physicist who understands the value of efficiency. How's this for clear,

"If I were emperor, I would put the pedal to the floor on energy efficiency and conservation."

Yea, he really said that.

So go here, and tell him you agree. Tell him this standard is too important to let the flawed conclusions of the previous administration stand.

Note on Mercury in Fluorescent Bulbs

Some folks have written in about their concerns about mercury in fluorescent bulbs. First of all, thanks for reading and thinking about these issues. You concerns are understandable, but you need not worry.

There are two standards being set in this rulemaking, one for tube shaped fluorescent lamps and one for incandescent reflector lamps. We are asking you to tell DOE to strengthen both proposals. Doing so will keep a gigantic amount of mercury from being emitted by electricity generation. I blogged about it here and this is the most important consideration if you are worried about mercury.

Tube fluorescent lamps contain mercury in vapor form, but increasing the standard will actually reduce the amount of mercury most bulbs. This is because the more efficient bulbs tend to be smaller. This means the same amount of light but less glass, less phosphors, and yes, less mercury. T12s are the older style, larger bulbs that could be phased out with this standard in favor of more efficient T8s and T5s. The number corresponds to the diameter, in 8ths of an inch (so T12 = 12/8 or 1.5 inches, T5 = 5/8ths of an inch).

So, increasing the standard will actually help reduce the amount of mercury in the average bulb. Increasing the standard won't drive folks from incandescent to fluorescent, as these sockets are not interchangeable. If you care about mercury in the air and in bulbs then you need to tell DOE is set a better standard.

Incandescent reflector lamps do not contain any mercury, but they use a lot of energy. Compact Fluorescent Reflector Lamps do exist (and they contain mercury) but they are not covered by this rulemaking. No requirement to shift to CFL will result from this rule. What will happen is the bulbs will be required to be more efficient and a loophole will hopefully be closed, thereby keeping mercury out of the air from emissions while having no impact on the amount of mercury in homes or bulbs.

Bottom line, mercury considerations are important and we should all take care to understand our policies, but for this rulemaking strengthening the standards will absolutely reduce mercury in the air and in the home.

This post originally appeared on NRDC's Switchboard blog.