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GE's big move to compact flourescents

An energy-efficient compact flourescent light bulb, left, and an incandescent bulb.

TEXT OF STORY

KAI RYSSDAL: When next we talk about the unemployment picture, an announcement from General Electric will figure slightly in the calculations: GE's turning out the lights at seven of its incandescent light bulb factories in the U.S., Brazil and Mexico. Shuttering those plants will mean a loss of 1,400 jobs, mostly in Brazil.

Sarah Gardner reports from the Marketplace Sustainability Desk it's part of GE's campaign to get rid of slow-growing, low-margin businesses -- even if the product was invented by the guy who founded the company.


SARAH GARDNER: General Electric may still "Bring Good Things to Light" -- but fewer of them are bulbs. Lighting products now account for less than 2 percent of the company's yearly revenues, and GE says sales of traditional bulbs are dimming by at least 10 percent every year.

GE's Deborah Wexler says consumers want more energy-efficient products:

DEBORAH WEXLER: We're seeing about a 45 percent annual growth rate since 2002 with CFLs.

That's compact fluorescents, those swirly-looking bulbs that use less energy and last seven years. Kateri Callahan, president of the Alliance to Save Energy, says the global drive for energy efficiency is driving the lighting market toward CFLs and so-called LEDs, now used in many traffic lights.

KATERI CALLAHAN: You have countries from Australia to U.K. to the European Union, Canada, the United States, all looking at phasing out inefficient incandensced lighting over the next three to 10 years.

And at least a dozen states are considering similar legislation. Just this week, Wal-Mart surpassed its goal of selling a million CFLs by the end of 2007.

Some CFL users complain about the quality of CFL light, however. GE says it's trying to develop a bulb that's energy efficient but still gives off that soft, warm glow its customers yearn for.

I'm Sarah Gardner for Marketplace.

About the author

Sarah Gardner is a reporter on the Marketplace sustainability desk.

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