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Energy Secretary Pushes for Energy-Efficient Bulbs

Amid soaring oil prices and ballooning global energy demand, the Bush Administration is calling on Americans to help conserve energy by switching to more energy-efficient light bulbs.

The "2007 Change a Light, Change the World" campaign was launched Wednesday by U.S. Department of Energy Secretary Samuel W. Bodman.

In an interview with CNBC, Bodman touted the campaign, which focuses on the massive carbon footprint of homes and families -- and offers a simple way to help alleviate it: by encouraging every American to change at least one light at home to an Energy-Star Compact Fluorescent Light bulb.

CFLs use 75% less energy than standard bulbs and last up to 10-times longer, resulting in fewer greenhouse gas emissions and energy cost savings. By some estimates, the bulbs can save $30 or more in energy costs over their lifetime.

Bodman said he personally took the “Change a Light” pledge to swap at least one bulb in his home to a CFL.

“The simplest of actions can have the biggest impact and changing to a CFL is something every American can do today to save energy and benefit the environment,” Bodman said. “I encourage all Americans to answer the president’s call to be more energy efficient by changing a light.”

Last year, an estimated 150 million CFLs were sold nationally, but that number is expected to more than double this year, according to some experts.

In addition to the "Change a Light" program, there have been other high-profile efforts to raise awareness about the energy-saving bulbs.

On Tuesday, Wal-Mart Stores announced it reached a target it set for itself of selling 100 million CFL bulbs. The Bentonville, Ark., retailer achieved this target by working with its suppliers to reduce the price of the bulbs to around $1.65 for the equivalent of a 60-watt incandescent bulb from around $2.40 a year ago. That compares to about 24 cents for the incandescent bulb.

Wal-Mart estimated that the sale of the 100 million bulbs will reduce electric bills by a combined $3 billion and conserve 50 billion tons of coal.

Advances in technology have made the spiral-shaped bulbs easier to use, but consumers should still be aware that the product contains mercury. Therefore, if a bulb breaks special steps should be taken to safely dispose of it. These steps include: airing out the room, using a damp paper towel to pick-up the remnants and double-bagging the mess in plastic.

Ideally, the CFLs should be recycled after their use to avoid having the mercury, a neurotoxin, from entering the landfills. The bulb packaging should contain the number of hotlines or Web site such as Lamp Recycle.org, which should help consumers dispose of the bulbs.

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