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Phillips Lighting company has developed an LED lightbulb that lasts for more than 20 years. It uses one-sixth as much energy as conventional incandescent bulbs to produce the same amount and quality of light. The catch?

Each bulb now costs the consumer fifty dollars, or 100 times more than the old incandescents. Doing the math, if a state-of-the-art Phillips bulb is turned on for one-third of all hours it will take just over three years to break even by saving three years’ costs of replacing and powering incandescent bulbs at current electricity prices. That leaves 17 years in which the $50 investment saves you money every day, if you power the bulband don’t break it. The Department of Energy awarded Phillips a $10 million prize for developing its new LED. Federal law will stop production of power-gobbling incandescent bulbs by 2014, which will encourage us to buy efficient, expensive bulbs made by Phillips or competitors. The good news is that taxpayers have already funded part of Phillips’ development costs, and consumer prices should fall as production volume increases. In January 2001, when I bought the first Prius sold in Dallas, the dealer told me it had cost Toyota $75,000 to produce the hybrid car I bought for $24,000. Toyota was investing in hybrid technology, and it was a wise investment. There are now many thousands running efficiently on American roads, production costs have gone way down, and Toyota has earned millions by licensing Prius technology to others, such as Ford.

I vote for Phillips giving us a similar break by selling bulbs at less than current production costs, betting on the future and our good will from doing the right thing.


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