The Spectacle Blog

When the Lights Go Down, It Ain’t Pretty

The Drudge-linked CNSNews story about Nancy Pelosi's press conference to announce new $140,000 "green" lighting in the House cafeteria reports the new fixtures "will take almost 10 years to pay off in saved energy.

By on 4.22.10 | 1:40PM

The Drudge-linked CNSNews story about Nancy Pelosi's press conference to announce new $140,000 "green" lighting in the Rayburn Building House cafeteria reports the new fixtures "will take almost 10 years to pay off in saved energy:"

(Capitol architect Stephen Myers said,) "At $800 a fixture we can’t get a good return on investment, but when it gets down to $300 – and I’m sure it will go even lower – we’re able to get a good return on investment."

...Pelosi said that the new lights in the cafeteria would make the Capitol a “shining example of sustainability” and green technology.

So how did the fixtures' cost drop so quickly and so dramatically? Because they were made by Durham, N.C.-based Cree Inc., a company whose LED lighting products are heavily subsidized by the government. The Raleigh News & Observer reported today:

U.S. Sen. Kay Hagan, a North Carolina Democrat, took partial credit for the news. In a news release from her office, Hagan wrote that she sent a letter last fall to the Senate Rules Committee encouraging them to select Cree's LEDs for new, energy-efficient lighting.

The light-emitting diodes made by Durham-based Cree are being adopted by cities, schools and businesses eager to embrace LEDs, which cost more than traditional lights but last much longer and use much less electricity.

Here's the last paragraph of Hagan's press release:

Cree, which employs roughly 1,900 North Carolinians, received a $39 million Advanced Energy Manufacturing Credit as a part of the Stimulus that Congress passed last year. Senator Hagan supported Cree's effort to obtain this credit, which allowed the company to lower LED lighting costs and begin construction on a new facility in Durham.

Vice President Biden visited Cree's facility last month to promote the administration's initiatives to create "green" jobs, which I blogged about:

A news report did mention, however, that Cree has received a $39-million tax credit through the American Reinvestment and Recovery Act, as well as $1.8 million in stimulus money for research and development. This coincided nicely with a visit by Cree president and CEO Chuck Swoboda to the White House last July, as well as a 2009 increase in Cree's lobbying expenditures of 137 percent over the previous year.

So considering the actual amount taxpayers paid for the new lights, the cost is much higher, and my bet is that they never will pay for themselves.

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