If it succeeds in selling 100 million compact fluorescent bulbs a year by 2008, total sales of the bulbs in the United States would increase by 50 percent, saving Americans $3 billion in electricity costs and 3 million tons of greenhouse gas per year. A compact fluorescent has clear advantages over the widely used incandescent light — it uses 75 percent less electricity, lasts 10 times longer, produces 450 pounds fewer greenhouse gases from power plants and saves consumers $30 over the life of each bulb.
The compact florescent bulbs are eight times as expensive as a traditional bulb, gives off a harsher light and has a peculiar appearance. As a result, the bulbs have languished on store shelves for a quarter century; only 6 percent of households use the bulbs today. During an extraordinary meeting in Las Vegas in early October, competing bulb makers, academics, environmentalists and government officials met to ponder, at times uncomfortably, how Wal-Mart could sell more of the fluorescent lights.
The proposals discussed at what Wal-Mart dubbed the “light bulb summit” ranged from the practical (advertise the bulbs on the back of a Coke 12-pack) to the quixotic (create a tax on incandescent bulbs to make them more expensive). At the same time that it pressured suppliers, Wal-Mart began testing ways to better market the bulbs. In the past, Wal-Mart had sold them on the bottom shelf of the lighting aisle, so that shoppers had to bend down. In tests that started in February, it gave the lights prime real estate at eye level. Sales soared.
To show customers how versatile the bulbs could be, Wal-Mart began displaying them inside the lamps and hanging fans for sale in its stores. Sales nudged up further.
To explain the benefits of the energy-efficient bulbs, the retailer placed an education display case at the end of the aisle, where it occupied four feet of valuable selling space — an extravagance at Wal-Mart. Sales climbed even higher.
In August 2006, the chain sold 3.94 million, nearly twice the 1.65 million it sold in August 2005, according to a person briefed on the numbers.
This is a step in the right direction but even with 100 such projects there is still the need to clean up energy sources. Coal got 50% cleaner in 1960s and 1970s and we got twice as efficient with the use of energy but coal is still a big problem that kills over 1000 people per day.