SYDNEY, Australia - The government yesterday announced plans to phase out incandescent light bulbs and replace them with more energy-efficient compact fluorescent bulbs across the country.
Legislation to gradually restrict the sale of the old-style bulbs could reduce Australia’s greenhouse gas emissions by 4 million tons by 2012 and cut household power bills by up to 66 percent, said Environment Minister Malcolm Turnbull.
Australia produced almost 565 million tons of greenhouse gases in 2004, official figures show.
Prime Minister John Howard said the plan would help all Australians play a part in cutting harmful gas emissions: “Here’s something practical that everybody will participate in,” he said.
In incandescent light bulbs, perfected for mass use by Thomas A. Edison in the late 19th century, electricity flows through a filament to create light. Much of the energy, however, is wasted in the form of heat.
Australia is not the only place looking to replace them with fluorescent lighting, which is more efficient and longer lasting.
Last month, a California assemblyman announced he would propose a bill to ban the use of incandescent bulbs in his state. And a New Jersey lawmaker has called for the state to switch to fluorescent lighting in government buildings within three years.
Cuba’s Fidel Castro initiated a similar program two years ago, sending youth brigades into homes and swapping out regular bulbs for energy-saving ones to reduce electrical blackouts across the island. The idea was later embraced by Fidel’s friend and ally, Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez.
Under the Australian plan, bulbs that do not comply with energy efficiency targets would be gradually banned from sale. Exemptions may apply for special needs such as medical lighting and oven lights.
Fluorescent bulbs cost more than incandescent bulbs but last longer and use only about 20 percent of the power to produce the same amount of light, making them more competitive over time, advocates argue.
Environmentalists welcomed the light bulb plan but noted that the bulk of Australia’s greenhouse gas emissions come from industry such as coal-fired power stations.
They urged the government to set national targets for emission reductions and renewable energy.
“It is a good, positive step. But it is a very small step. It needs to be followed through with a lot of different measures,” Australian Conservation Foundation spokesman Josh Meadows told Australian Broadcasting Corp. radio.
Mr. Howard has become a global warming convert in recent months, saying for the first time that human activity is having an effect on rising temperatures.
He has steadfastly refused to ratify the Kyoto Protocol on greenhouse gas reductions, however, arguing that doing so could damage Australia’s coal-dependent economy.