Light Bulbs Replace Coal Power Plants

By John Addison (2/23/07). California media, business and government leaders gathered at the CFL Summit in San Jose on February 22 to discuss an important subject – changing a light bulb. Yes, it was an all-day meeting about a light bulb – the compact fluorescent lamp (CFL).

A summit meeting about a light bulb? I had to attend. I thought it would be like the light bulb joke that asks “How many Californians does it take to change a light bulb?” Correct answer: Eleven. It takes four to create a space for it to happen, one to change the bulb, four to share in the experience, one to write a book about the experience, and one to negotiate the movie rights to the book.

It turns out that the right light bulb is no laughing mater. CFLs are an important part of saving billions, achieving energy independence and averting a climate crisis. If each American replaced only one conventional 60W bulb with a 13W ENERGY STAR-labeled CFL, it would prevent the burning of 30 billion pounds of coal, and save $8 billion in energy costs.

This enormous potential for change brought 200 to the meeting including a Hollywood producer, Washington officials, environmental leaders, and corporate executives from around the country.

Producer of an Inconvenient Truth, Lawrence Bender introduced the significance of, named for the 18 seconds it takes to change a bulb. “This movement is about empowering the individual — to say to every person in America that with one easy step, they can become part of a movement that will literally change the world,” said Bender. An Inconvenient Truth is nominated for two Academy Awards including best documentary. Mr. Bender’s past films Good Will Hunting and Pulp Fiction won multiple Oscars.

Co-founder of Yahoo, David Filo, talked about the unexpected rewards for doing the right things. He knows a lot about empowering people to make a difference. When he co-founded Yahoo in 1994, 99% of us were unable to navigate and communicate using the Internet. From the early years, Yahoo has supported a wide-range of non-profit causes, bringing together those that want to help with those in need. Yahoo for Good ( provides details about programs including Earth Day, Breast Cancer, and Disaster Relief. Amy Lorio, Yahoo News GM, shared how environmental news is reaching many of Yahoo’s 500 million users.

Yahoo manages and helps sponsor summits like this one. Yahoo also goes to lengths to empower employees to enjoy sustainable living and avoid gridlock traffic. (Cool Commutes)

Environmental Defense offers details about a wide range of compact fluorescent lamp for different lighting and decorative requirements at their website.

One of the CFL Summit sponsors is public utility PG&E which actively promotes fuel efficiency and is investing billions in renewable energy. Not all utilities are promoting efficiency. Making daily headlines is TXU’s controversial proposal to build 11 to 19 inefficient coal power plants that threaten all of us with the planned emission of 78 million tons of annual greenhouse gas emissions. In the past month, Americans have installed enough CFLs to more than offset the power that would be produced by these plants. provides good information and tracks success. For example, since the start of 2007, over 14 million CFLs were purchased in the U.S. During the life of these lamps, $400 million will be saved; 1.4 billion pounds of coal will not required for fueling unnecessary power plants. Over 6 billion pounds of greenhouse gas emissions will be prevented.

“A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step, observed Confucius. Ending global warming begins by installing one CFL. It only takes 18 seconds.

John Addison is the author of the upcoming book Save Gas, Save the Planet. This article is copyright John Addison with permission to publish. For years, he and his wife Marci have lighted their home with CFLs. This article appears in full at the Clean Fleet Report.

1 reply
  1. Yehuda Draiman
    Yehuda Draiman says:

    Hidden beneath the Rockies lies a big oil field! 2 trillion barrelsLet us say it is true. How come everyone is not running to exploit it, like they exploit any other economic and financial benefit?The other aspect is how much energy, and at what cost – financial and ecological, is it going to take to heat the oil shale up and extract the oil.I suggest conserving resources; we should use renewable energy, such as Solar and Wind energy etc. to heat up the shale.Another issue is they are waiting for oil to reach $200 per barrel so the government can reduce the deficit and outstanding loans.I hope that is the truth and that there are no hidden agendas.Technological hurdles to extract oil from shale”Despite all the attempts to develop a shale oil industry in the United States over the past 100 years, the fact remains that no proven method exists for efficiently moving the oil from the rock. There are a number of candidate processes possible, but none has demonstrated a practical capability to produce oil.”Experts with field experience who are bullish on the prospects for America’s oil shale. But they recognize that, here and now, we are still not there yet technologically.There are a number of problems yet to be solved before US oil shale can be recovered on any type of meaningful scale, let alone a mass scale. And getting the extraction technology right is only one monkey wrench in the works with US oil shale. There are others.For example, there are questions of air quality regarding domestic oil shale operations. How badly would these operations pollute the air? Would the levels be acceptable? Shell isn’t sure.There are questions of water availability. During the extraction process, how much water would be required? Experts are not sure. An early “guess” is two to three barrels of water per barrel of shale. This could be a conservative estimate. Either way, will the massive amounts of water necessary for heavy-duty shale extraction even be available in the first place, given that the Colorado River Basin is already running low? You also need to account for the environmental and ecological damage and restoration to pre-drilling condition.American technology and knowhow will find the answer – all you have to do is wave the dollar bill in front of corporate America and they will find the answer “by hook and by crook”. Then the executives, the shareholders and the politicians will laugh all the way to the bank.Yehuda Draiman

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