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30 August 2009

2007 Energy Bill Sends Light Bulb Jobs to China

The GE Winchester, Virginia Bulb Plant makes incandescent light bulbs which the 2007 Energy Act outlaws in 2012 in some wattages and eliminates entirely in 2014. The plant with its 200 employees, along with other plants in Ohio and Kentucky with an additional 200 people, is being closed. GE is having compact fluorescent bulbs made in China to replace the regular incandescent bulbs they will no longer make. See a report by Timothy Carney in The Examiner.

The compact fluorescent bulbs have mercury gas in them, which is being dumped into regular landfills, though the bulbs commonly break and then the volatile liquid mercury escapes. These bulbs cost much more than incandescent bulbs upon sale as well. But, because they involve mercury and given environmental laws in the U.S., it is easier to make them in China. In fact, according to The Times of London, large numbers of Chinese workers have been poisoned by mercury which goes into the compact fluorescent bulbs. Of course, these Chinese workers are also paid less and labor regulations are less of a problem for GE.

Given the promises of the Obama gang that they are going to produce many "Green Jobs", GE is under pressure to provide some "Green Jobs" in the U.S., rather than in China. So, they are moving a Hybrid Electric Heat Pump operation from China to Kentucky, where they will be adding 400 jobs. The 400 jobs lost in Virginia, Ohio, and Kentucky will be replaced with 400 jobs in Kentucky. No net gain as promised by Obama, but also no embarrassing net loss of jobs.

GE lobbied for the 2007 Energy Act, soon after it developed a high-efficiency incandescent bulb which was supposed to eventually be as energy-efficient as the compact fluorescent bulb. It was also safer, turned on instantly, and produced a more white light. Apparently, contrary to Carney's article, GE has abandoned developments on the high-efficiency incandescent bulb in favor of developing light-emitting diode (LED) and organic LED or OLED lighting technologies. GE has been relatively quiet about this, but a number of environmentalist blogs have been discussing this, beginning with one called Clean Break. The LED technologies are still more energy efficient, longer lasting, and more durable. But, it is not known when manufacturing of products to replace large numbers of today's incandescent bulbs will begin and whether this manufacturing will be located in the United States.

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