President Obama said Monday that light bulbs will have to meet tougher efficiency standards in order to slash energy bills and greenhouse gas emissions.
Mr. Obama’s announcement came three days after the House of Representatives passed a sweeping climate bill that is the centerpiece of the president’s plan to curb carbon dioxide emissions, reform the nation’s energy markets and tackle global warming.
Backers say the bill that passed the House of Representatives late last week is designed to move the nation toward a clean energy economy, but its fate in the Senate is uncertain. Administration officials have been anxious to maintain the momentum on the issue as lawmakers return to their districts for a weeklong Fourth of July recess.
“I know light bulbs may not seem sexy,” Mr. Obama said, “but this simple action holds enormous promise because 7 percent of all the energy consumed in America is used to light our homes and our businesses.”
Mr. Obama told reporters that the tougher standards for fluorescent and incandescent light bulbs will help consumers save $4 billion a year on energy bills between 2012 and 2042. The standards will also conserve enough electricity to power every home in America for 10 months, reduce carbon emissions equal to the amount produced by 166 million cars each year and eliminate the need for as many as 14 coal-fired power plants, he added.
Republicans accused Mr. Obama of focusing on small measures while ignoring more market-friendly alternatives.
“Everyone wants more efficiency, but the president is simply dropping the ball when it comes to the big picture on energy,” said Michael Steel, a spokesman for House Minority Leader John Boehner of Ohio.
Mr. Steel said House Republicans have a offered a comprehensive “all of the above” plan for a cleaner, healthier environment, lower costs and less dependence on foreign oil.
Standing beside Energy Secretary Steven Chu, Mr. Obama said the White House will lead the way by identifying and replacing wasteful light bulbs.
A 2007 energy bill passed by Congress allowed the Energy Department to issue energy conservation standards for home appliances, as well as fluorescent and incandescent lamps. Mr. Obama asked Mr. Chu in February to speed up the rule-making process and the light bulb standards announced Monday which go into effect in 2012 are a key part of the larger effort.
Mr. Obama said that commercial and residential buildings must also be made more efficient because they consume 40 percent of the nation’s energy and cause 40 percent of its carbon emissions.
The president said implementing more-efficient heating and cooling systems, windows, smart sensors and controls will make buildings 80 percent more efficient. Adding solar panels on roofs and geothermal energy from underground could lead to “net zero” buildings that consume virtually no energy or create as much energy as they use.
“Now, progress like this might seem farfetched. But the fact is we are not lacking for ideas and innovation; all we lack are the smart policies and the political will to help us put our ingenuity to work,” he said.
To expedite the development, deployment and use of this energy-efficient technology, Mr. Obama released $346 million in funding from the economic stimulus bill he passed in February.
“The nation that leads the world in creating a new clean energy economy will be the nation that leads the 21st century global economy. That’s our choice,” he said.