How many legislators does it take to change a light bulb?
In California, the answer is a majority -- plus Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger.
Decrying the inefficiency of the common light bulb, a Democratic Assemblyman from Los Angeles wants California to become the first state to ban it -- by 2012.
Assemblyman Lloyd Levine says compact fluorescent light bulbs, which often have a spiral shape and are being promoted by Wal-Mart, are so efficient that consumers should be forced to use them. The compact bulbs use a quarter the energy of a conventional light.
"Incandescent light bulbs were first developed almost 125 years ago, and since that time they have undergone no major modifications," said Levine, who represents Sherman Oaks. "It's time to take a step forward."
Levine is known for his environmental bent. Last year, he authored legislation to require large supermarkets to recycle plastic bags. Schwarzenegger signed that bill but has not yet taken a position on the light bulb bill.
Levine isn't the only one who's seen the light. Democrat Jared Huffman, who represents San Rafael, is working on a similar bill.
The idea has annoyed some Republicans, who say people should be allowed to make their own choices about which bulbs to buy. But Levine, who heads the Assembly's Utilities and Commerce Committee, points out that the new bulbs are so efficient that electric utilities give them away.
He said replacing one 75-watt incandescent light bulb with a 20-watt compact fluorescent bulb would prevent 1,300 pounds of carbon dioxide from being pumped into the atmosphere by electric plants. Carbon dioxide is a major component of the gases that most experts believe are responsible for global warming. Consumers could also save $55 over the life of a single bulb.