NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

GE Closes Last Incandescent Light Bulb Plant, Jobs Sent to China

October 6, 2010

GE has closed its last major factory making incandescent light bulbs in the United States, a victim of a 2007 law banning sale of the light bulbs by 2014.  Environmental activist groups promised the restrictions would create green jobs, but workers at GE's Winchester, Virginia plant are finding the law is merely creating jobs overseas in China, says the Heartland Institute.

  • The 2007 law imposed energy efficiency requirements that cannot be met by traditional incandescent light bulbs.
  • Compact fluorescent lights (CFLs), which are much more expensive than incandescent light bulbs, are the least expensive alternative.
  • The manufacture of CFLs, however, is labor intensive and too expensive to be done at U.S. wage rates.

GE could retrofit its Winchester plant to produce CFLs, but GE CFLs would be 50 percent more expensive than bulbs made in China with the benefit of cheap labor.  Realizing it could not compete with such a cost disadvantage, GE is closing down its Winchester factory, putting 200 workers out of a job.

H. Sterling Burnett, a senior fellow at the National Center for Policy Analysis, says people should not be surprised by job losses caused by environmental mandates such as the ban on incandescent light bulbs.

"The claim that the unemployment caused by federal policies forcing CFL light bulbs on the public was an 'unintended consequence' would be laughable if the job losses weren't so unfortunate," says Burnett. 

Sam Kazman, general counsel for the Competitive Enterprise Institute, pointed out banning incandescent light bulbs does not necessarily bring environmental benefits.

  • In 1987 the town of Traer, Iowa handed out 18,000 free fluorescent bulbs to its residents in a demonstration project aimed at reducing power consumption.
  • Residential electricity use actually rose by 8 percent, because people used more lights and kept them on longer once they realized their lighting was cheaper.

Source: Kenneth Artz, "GE Closes Last Incandescent Light Bulb Plant, Jobs Sent to China," Heartland Institute, October 4, 2010.


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