Editorial: Fluorescent light bulb giveaway a bright idea
It was a bright idea and a good public relations move.
On Wednesday, Sierra Pacific Power, the electric utility for most of northern Nevada and the California side of Lake Tahoe, donated 10,000 compact fluorescent light bulbs to eager Tahoe customers.
The Tahoe Daily Tribune story likened the giveaway’s response to a “feeding frenzy.”
The energy-efficient bulbs were gone in just a couple hours, a testament to our local residents’ desires to save energy and prevent greenhouse gases. But the bulbs aren’t cheap, so free packs of 12 of them also ignited interest.
South Lake Tahoe resident Andrea Stanley, who nabbed her own bulbs at the event, probably best summed up the enthusiasm: “I think we need to reduce our demand for power,” she said. “Also, these are really expensive.”
The bulbs can cost up to $5 each in some South Lake Tahoe outlets, though proponents contend their longer life span and greater efficiency eventually outstrip initial cost.
According to Rose Healion, a Sierra Pacific conservation program manager, the fluorescent lamps use 75 percent less energy than traditional incandescent bulbs and can last up to 10 years when used an average of three hours a day.
A Web site run jointly by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Department of Energy estimates that if every home in America replaced one conventional incandescent bulb with a compact fluorescent lamp, enough energy would be saved to light more than 3 million homes for a year, save more than $600 million in annual energy costs and reduce greenhouse gases equivalent to emissions from more than 800,000 cars.
But though the message seems to be slowly sinking in, the bulbs are not flying off the shelves as they should be.
Cost, obviously, is one factor.
For many people, it’s much easier to rationalize spending less money on incandescent bulbs than to shell out big bucks on fluorescents.
The saved money, so the rationale goes, could be used for other necessities, such as food.
The other hurdle, perhaps, is that consumers still aren’t accustomed to seeing the spiral bulbs on store shelves. They’re there, of course, but easily out of mind beside their less-expensive incandescent competitors.
So two things must happen, and Sierra Pacific Power did its part Wednesday: Prompt buyers to recognize the existence and advantages of fluorescent bulbs. Second: Reduce their cost.
Until the fluorescent bulbs elbow out their competitors on store shelves and until manufacturers offer the bulbs at lower costs, this particular effort to reduce energy use and protect the environment will be an uphill battle.