Light bulbs: The odyssey of a bright idea

Sept. 8, 2010 at 10:58 AM
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WINCHESTER, Va., Sept. 8 (UPI) -- The light bulb dreamed up by Thomas Alva Edison is on its last legs as a product made in the United States, a victim of regulations, General Electric said.

The fatal blow for the product was a 2007 federal law that set higher standards for energy conservation, which essentially banned the bulbous, tear-drop shaped light bulb in favor of the spiral florescent light bulbs, which are mostly made in China, The Washington Post reported Wednesday.

The light bulb, which stands for American innovation, is also an iconic lesson in how the new green economy does not guarantee jobs for U.S. workers, the newspaper said.

The spiral florescent bulbs require more hand labor, making them cheaper to produce in China.

GE said it would close its Winchester, Va., light bulb factory at the end of the month as "a variety of energy regulations … will soon make the familiar lighting products produced at the Winchester plant obsolete."

The Post reported the company in China that now makes more than half the spiral light bulbs sold in the United States intends to build a factory in United States because, "Retailers tell me people ask for 'Made in the USA'. I tell them the product will cost 45 to 50 cents more. They say people will pay for it," said manufacturer Ellis Yan, who took the spiral bulb concept designed at General Electric and turned it into a Chinese product.

By the month's end, however, 200 U.S. workers in Winchester will lose their jobs.

"Everybody's jumping on the green bandwagon. (But) we've been sold out. First sold out by the government. Then sold out by GE," said plant worker Pat Doyle, who will lose a job held for 26 years.

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