WASHINGTON -- The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has come up with a new program to save energy and reduce pollution by focusing on the common light bulb.
The EPA has enlisted executives of 160 major U.S. corporations and two states -- Maryland and California -- to use more energy-efficient light bulbs in its "Green Lights" program.
With the light bulb, EPA officials hope to cut the demand for electricity and delay the need for utilities to build costly hydroelectric dams, coal-fired power plants and controversial nuclear generators.
EPA Administrator William K. Reilly said that U.S. electricity demand would drop 10 percent and toxic emissions levels from power plants would fall 5 percent if all U.S. industries and businesses simply used energy-efficient light bulbs.
The bulb now retails for as much as $19.99, but Reilly said the demand created by the Green Lights program will probably drive down the cost.
In Pacific Gas and Electric's 10-year plan, conservation steps such as the Green Lights program provide three-fourths of the additional 3,200 megawatts of electricity needed to meet growing demand in California, Reilly said.
That's the equivalent of two big nuclear power plants, Reilly said.
The light bulb program is the first of a number of proposed government-industry energy saving ventures, including one for air conditioning systems, Reilly said.
Gov. William Donald Schaefer last month signed a memorandum of agreement with EPA officials to use compact fluorescent bulbs, which consume less electricity and last 10 times longer than do conventional bulbs. The state will urge businesses and consumers to use the new compact fluorescent bulbs.
Maryland will also install more efficient normal-sized fluorescent bulbs in its buildings across the state, a project that could take up to five years, according to Gary Thorpe, the state's director of energy programs.
Thorpe estimated the state could save at least $10 million a year in electricity by using more efficient bulbs. The state spent more than $100 million on electricity last year, Thorpe said.