Better Bulbs, Better Jobs

Posted by Dylan Sullivan on February 22, 2012
Better Bulbs, Better Jobs
Steve Stockdale of Advanced Lighting Technologies with the company's 2X more efficient incandescent halogen bulb. Visible inside is the Ohio-created capsule responsible for the bulb's 100% efficiency increase. Photo credit: Lauren Kubiak.

Maybe you’ve heard about the many benefits of the federal light bulb efficiency standards that went into effect almost two months ago, on January 1st: how the legislation—passed by an large, bipartisan majority in 2007 and signed into law by President George W. Bush—will save the average American household at least $85 a year—kind of a stimulus package in your light socket. Or, how, nationwide, it will eliminate the need for 30 new power plants, whose construction would further jack up electric costs. Maybe you’ve heard how, each year, the standards will prevent 10-million-cars-worth of global warming and air pollution from entering our fragile atmosphere and, also importantly, our children’s developing lungs.

Probably, though, you haven’t heard the other good news about the federal light bulb standard. It’s creating jobs in Ohio. According to a new report NRDC just released, the growing market for energy-efficient lighting has resulted in more than 1,500 manufacturing jobs in Ohio. And it’s not just manufacturing jobs the law has created. In Ohio, federal efficiency standards, and state ones, too, are creating jobs for engineers and designers, for clerical workers, sales people, for middle managers and administrators, among others. In other words, efficiency standards help generate the broad spectrum of jobs Ohioans need now.

Let’s start with manufacturing jobs. Since the summer of 2000, our country has lost a startling 32% of its manufacturing base. Ohio has been particularly hard hit, losing 282,000 manufacturing positions. Energy-efficient light bulbs, though, are bringing manufacturing jobs back. Not all 282,000 of them, by any means. But they’re an important start. 

Let me give you some examples:

  • In October 2010, GE’s facility in Bucyrus hired more than 100 new workers to manufacture high-efficiency lighting products.
  • Blue Ash’s LSI Industries has hundreds of workers producing LED lighting fixtures and other high-efficiency lighting products. “Our slogan is, ‘American innovation, American made,’” founder Bob Ready says proudly.
  • At Advanced Lighting Technologies in Solon, 120 workers create the interior capsules that boost next-generation incandescents’ efficiency.
  • And at TCP, which supplies compact fluorescents and other high-efficiency bulbs to big box retailers such as Home Depot, Lowe’s, Walmart and Sears, the company is bringing some of its manufacturing jobs back to its suburban Cleveland campus. Back from where, you might ask. Back from China. When was the last time you heard of that happening?

Of course, manufacturing jobs aren’t the only ones smart federal and state policies have helped create. GE’s East Cleveland headquarters employs 700 engineers and designers who are envisioning and designing the efficient lighting products of the future. TCP houses its R&D and administrative bases in suburban Cleveland. And, in Parma, GrafTech develops products that manage the heat generated by energy-sipping LED lights. (The bulbs use only 10-15% of the electricity incandescents do.)

State efficiency standards, which require electric utilities like AEP and FirstEnergy to help their customers save energy, are creating jobs too. At J&M Electrical Supply, a family-owned business in Cambridge, the number of lighting efficiency upgrades the company has performed in the last two years has doubled.  At neighboring J’s Service Lighting, lighting efficiency expert Jay Patterson is so overbooked, he’s had to limit his customers to a 45-mile radius.

In Ohio, there are hundreds of workers like Patterson, who make their living by providing the great energy-, money- and pollution-savings benefits that efficient lighting brings. I’m proud that the energy-efficiency standards NRDC and others have worked so hard to effect protect not only our children and our climate but Ohioans’ jobs, too.


This post originally appeared on the National Resources Defense Council's blog, which you can view here.

Dylan Sullivan is an energy advocate based in Chicago, Illinios. He focuses on increasing the use of cost-effective energy efficiency in the Midwest. He came to NRDC on a MAP Fellowship from Stanford University, where he received a MS in Civil and Environmental Engineering from the Atmosphere/Energy program.

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