There is the old joke about negative journalism stating that, if Dan Rather had announced the invention of the electric light, he would have opened with, “There’s bad news tonight for candle makers.” Well, there’s bad news tonight for electric light makers, especially makers of the incandescent bulb. I hold in my hands a plastic bubble package. Inside is what looks like an ice cream swirl such as you would buy at a Dairy Queen. But this is actually an “energy smart” bulb, or “compact fluorescent,” the light of the future, perhaps whether we want it or not. You may have seen or heard about these babies. They screw into the light socket just like the bulbs that we have always used – that design has hardly changed in 125 years. We’ve been using incandescent bulbs since the introduction of the steam locomotive and the telegraph. But these new versions are actually fluorescent lights, corkscrewing up in a white coil, about three inches taller than what we have been using and thus may not fit in all lamps. The bad news is that these new energy smart bulbs cost more. This is a three-way bulb which runs $14.99 each. On the next shelf are two brands of your standard three-way bulbs costing $1.99 and $2.49. (Wal-Mart is making a major push on these compact fluorescents, so you may be able to find them even cheaper there.) On the other hand, there are several advantages: the new bulbs use 75 percent less energy, last 10 times longer, would save me $30 over the life of each bulb and they help the environment. Three out of four ain’t bad. You are absolutely right. It is hard to get real excited about light bulbs, what with the vote on “American Idol” coming up, “Dancing With the Stars” is back, and did I mention the Presidential campaigns? But we are talking about our electric bills from companies that want to strip mine Texas, pour black junk into our children’s lungs, and – get this – charge Texans the highest electric bills in America. Now I’ve got your attention. I do like to save both money and the universe at the same time, so to show you watts watt, here are a few stats which I have researched from a variety of sources. (Remember, if you steal from one source, it’s called “plagiarism.” If you steal from 20 sources, it’s called “research.”) About 22 percent of electricity is used for lighting. Of that 22 percent, 42 percent is consumed by incandescent bulbs, i.e., the kind of light bulbs we use currently – ha-ha, get it? Currently? All told, a bit more than 9 percent of the electricity we use is consumed by our incandescent light bulbs. If we switch to my Dairy Queen special, those figures would be cut in half. The switch would save us $18 billion a year in electric bills, and would save the amount of juice that would be produced by 30 nuclear power plants or as many as 80 coal plants. Considering what TXU wanted to do to our countryside and lungs, these stats are most welcomed. But there is more to our story. As mentioned, these compact fluorescents last longer – this one is guaranteed to glow six years and/or 10,000 hours under certain conditions listed in small print (“Use only on Thursdays”), and are three times as efficient. Attention tree huggers: making the switch could also slow the growth of greenhouse-gas emissions, of which Texas leads the nation by far. America has 4 billion light sockets. Are we really going to get people to switch their bulbs? One group is trying. There is a movement by environmentalists, industrialists and energy experts to help us make the switch within about 10 years. But General Electric, which traces its origins to Thomas Edison, who invented the incandescent light bulb, is opposed to the movement. Oddly enough, the energy smart bulb I am even now purchasing was made by GE, so I don’t see why they would object to every American household tossing out the old bulbs and replacing them with new bulbs made by GE. Other countries are a pace ahead of us on this. Australia is seeking to phase out the old incandescents completely and replace them with compact fluorescents. Ontario and California are considering the same change. Here in Texas, we might switch bulbs if Gov. Rick Perry would issue another one of his powerful executive orders. He’s had so much luck with them in the past. On the other hand, maybe that could be a long shot. Remember, it was Perry who wanted to fast-track construction of those 11 coal-burning generating plants that TXU wanted. Maybe we could follow the lead of our personalized car plates and sell the new bulbs to glow orange or maroon. Or taking a page from our cell phones, when you turn on the lamp, it plays “You Light Up My Life” if not “Tripping the Light Fantastic.” Let’s get Dairy Queen to give away a bulb with the purchase of every ice cream swirl. The hardest parts of the changeover are two-fold: first, there is the acceptance problem. The old type fluorescent lights are associated with the offices, classrooms, service stations and, of course, Wal-Mart. Those long, white tubes may save money, but who wants them in their den? When you say, “fluorescent lights,” people grimace. These compact babies, however, look nothing like their lengthy cousins and, when screwed into a lamp, can’t be seen unless you’ve got a really small shade. Second problem: Have you ever tried to get one of these suckers out of the plastic bubble? I need a chainsaw. As we can see, don’t stock up on incandescent light bulbs. Green Peace will arrest you. Buy stock in firms that manufacture compact fluorescents, make sure you only buy large lampshades, and alert Dan Rather. Socket it to me. Ashby glows at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.