Sylvania embraces new energy regulations

On December 19, 2007, then-President George W. Bush signed into federal law the Energy Independence and Security Act (EISA). Among the many provisions included within the act were those establishing clearly defined and efficiency standards for light bulbs and home appliances. The new regulations require that all light bulbs be 30 percent more efficient by 2012. Traditional incandescent bulbs do not meet the new standards as set forth in the EISA. As a result, the traditional 100-watt incandescents are to be phased out by 2012, followed by the 100- to 40-watt range in 2014. These will ultimately be replaced by "next generation" lighting technology like LED, halogen, and Compact Fluorescent light bulbs, or CFLs. Opponents of the EISA regulations are concerned that the legislation could pose a threat to manufacturing jobs in the U.S. With Osram Sylvania, one of the world's largest manufacturers of lighting products, employing over 400 people locally, Elk County has a vested interest in the law's implications and implementation. Stephanie J. Anderson, head of PR and chief corporate spokeswoman for Osram Sylvania, is reassuring in addressing any concerns held regarding the company's operations and any possible negative impact the EISA could have on its workforce. Anderson said that the company has already adapted its operations to meet the stricter standards by introducing a product range that meets and exceeds the new regulations. "We [Sylvania] invest significantly in research and development for energy-saving technologies because we believe this will be the source of future lighting growth," Anderson said. She said the company was able to save American jobs through the introduction of new products like the halogen "SuperSaver" light bulb, which has the familiar shape and metal screw base of an incandescent, but consumes roughly 30 percent less energy and meets the efficiency standards as set forth in the EISA. The halogen bulbs contain a capsule filled with halogen gas, which allows the filament to burn more efficiently than that of a traditional incandescent. Anderson said the "SuperSaver" enabled the company to preserve 400 jobs at its St. Marys plant and will provide for the security of those positions after the law is enacted in January of next year and the phase-out begins. "Osram Sylvania invested in new equipment in our St. Marys and Winchester, Kentucky plants to enable the production of the 'SuperSaver'. The halogen capsules are produced in Winchester. The other parts are assembled in St. Marys," Anderson said, adding that by adapting their product line, Sylvania was able to save jobs in Wellsboro and Warren as well. Anderson said that there is a common misconception that the law is in effect banning incandescents, adding that halogen is itself a form of incandescent technology. She said halogen incandescent bulbs are also the most affordable of the next generation lighting options, costing around $1.50 each. More expensive than halogens, LED and CFLs have a longer life expectancy and are currently the most popular varieties sold in the U.S. CFLs, perhaps the most controversial of next- generation lighting options, are both revered for their efficiency and duration and feared for the potential pollution risk they pose.In response to concerns surrounding the possibility for pollution created in the disposal of CFLs, Anderson said, "CFLs require appropriate disposal or recycling. We support the growing number of free municipal and retail recycling programs." CFLs contain a varying amount of a mercury, a toxic substance that produces light in the bulbs when the mercury molecules are excited by the electric current running between them. Anderson said that Sylvania has been manufacturing CFLs since the 1980s and clarified that no CFLs are produced in the U.S. and most are made in China. Anderson went on to add that Sylvania offers prepaid recycling kits on its website and is partnering with Veolia Environmental Services in offering Sylvania's "RecyclePak." Anderson said that Sylvania does not provide consumer recycling services on-site at their plants and wants to remind the public that recycling options vary by municipality. She added that Sylvania plants are equipped with comprehensive in-house recycling programs for materials used in the manufacturing process. The National Resources Defense Council (NRDC) says that even though CFLs cost approximately five times more than incandescents, Americans would save a total of $12 billion a year by 2020 due to lower electricity bills if the standards are left in place. This averages out to $85 per household per year. Regarding the cost effectiveness of energy-saving bulbs, Anderson said, "Energy saving-light bulbs are an important way for consumers to save money." She added that Sylvania would continue to invest in energy-efficient technologies as they expect the market will continue to grow.Critics of the law claim it will in effect weaken the American economy by exporting manufacturing jobs to nations like China and serve to strengthen foreign markets by requiring Americans to purchase products not produced domestically. In addition, critics accuse the EISA as being an affront to the free market and the freedom of consumers to choose. In response to these assertions, Anderson said Sylvania is committed to introducing more lighting choices for consumers, including halogen incandescent, CFL, and LED bulbs. "We will continue to promote the benefits of these options and raise awareness among consumers," Anderson said.