As the U.S. gears up for the forthcoming phaseout of incandescent light bulbs, two schools of action are emerging. One, spearheaded by Texas Congressmen Joe Barton and Ron Paul, seeks to roll back the plan. The other is represented by companies like Firefly LED Lighting, a Texas-based company which manufactures energy efficient lighting products in…Texas. With two opposite sides pushing against each other in the same state, it’s pretty clear that the tension between old technology and new goes far beyond what consumers prefer in household lighting. It’s also a matter of whether or not the U.S. is serious about transitioning its manufacturing base to compete in a new global economy.
Firefly LED Lighting
First, a word about Firefly LED Lighting. Firefly has been in the news recently because it just won a $3 million award from the Austin Technology Incubator, of which the company is a member. The Technology Incubator in turn is a spinoff of the University of Texas at Austin. It’s dedicated to pushing new ventures into successful commercialization while putting fresh new UTA graduates to work every year. Firefly already has a track record and the new funding will enable it to grow even more.
The Incandescent Bulb Phaseout
Other countries have already begun to phase out incandescent bulbs, as has California, which would count as its own country in terms of market share. According to one recent survey more than 70% of U.S. households have already tried an energy-efficient light bulb, even in advance of the national phaseout kicking in. That’s pretty good, because surveys also reveal that public awareness of the phaseout is only just starting to pick up. In addition, at least one major retailer – IKEA – has already gotten a head start on the competition by ceasing to sell incandescent bulbs altogether.
Energy Efficient Bulbs and New Green Jobs
Despite all this activity, supporters of incandescent bulbs are determined to find a way to keep their favored form of lighting afloat, even after the phaseout begins. One group of South Carolina state legislators has even proposed encouraging incandescent bulb manufacturers to set up shop in their state by using a loophole in the interstate commerce clause. That’s all well and good, but regardless of whatever incentives South Carolina offers, both the global and domestic markets for incandescent lighting will continue to shrink. That doesn’t bode well for the long term growth prospects of whatever companies take them up on the offer. The South Carolina solution is a bit like encouraging a company to start building manual typewriters. Sure, the old technology works just fine and there may even be a niche market for those things, but it’s not a serious way to charge up the U.S. economy for a competitive global marketplace.
Image: Light bulb by wisdomlight on flickr.com.