07/31/2009 05:12 am ET Updated May 25, 2011

How Many Presidents Does It Take to Change a Light Bulb?

How many Presidents of the United States does it take to change a light bulb?

Just one.

It's no joke. Millions of Americans have already changed their light bulbs to save energy and fight global warming. New lighting standards announced Monday will help all our homes and businesses make the switch, and as a result, save billions of dollars in utility bills and create thousands of new jobs.

The new lighting standards will save enough energy annually to power all U.S. homes for almost a year, while saving consumers $1 billion to $4 billion a year in utility bills. The long-delayed standards come just a few months after the president directed Energy Secretary Steven Chu to speed up the process of setting efficiency standards for a variety of home and commercial appliances, from refrigerators to soft-drink vending machines.

This is the kind of leadership that will build the clean energy economy of the future. As the President said in making the announcement, a light bulb seems like a small thing. But collectively, billions of more efficient light bulbs will make a big impact.

The Department of Energy calculates that the new lighting standards will save enough energy to eliminate the need for up to 14 large power plants. The standards will also cut carbon dioxide emissions by 593 million metric tons over 30 years, an act equivalent to removing roughly 110 million cars from the road for a year.

Consumers save, too. The new standards will save users up to $71 billion over thirty years. Over the life of a typical bulb meeting the new standards, the average buyer would save over $67 on a new fluorescent lamp and about $8 on a new incandescent reflector lamp. (To learn more about energy efficiency, visit

DOE could have gone further, but this is a significant improvement from where the Bush administration was heading. In coming months and years, the administration will be rolling out new standards for more than two dozen appliances, including water heaters, washers and dryers and room air conditioners. It's a no-brainer: Some manufacturers argue that with a troubled economy, we can't afford to make our appliances more efficient. The truth is, we can't afford not to.