"I know light bulbs may not seem sexy, but this simple action holds enormous promise because 7 percent of all the energy consumed in America is used to light our homes and businesses," the president said, standing alongside Energy Secretary Steven Chu at the White House.
Obama said new efficiency standards he was announcing for lamps would result in substantial savings between 2012 and 2042, while saving consumers up to 4 billion annually, conserving enough energy to power every U.S. home for 10 months, reducing emissions equal to the amount produced by 166 cars a year and eliminating the need for as many as 14 coal-fired power plants.
The president also said he was speeding the delivery of $346 million in economic stimulus money to help improve energy efficiency in new and existing commercial buildings.
The White House added the event to the president's schedule at the last minute, just three days after the House of Representatives narrowly approved the first U.S. energy legislation designed to curb global warming. The measure's fate is uncertain in the Senate, where Democrats lack the 60 votes needed to block a certain filibuster. That is a delaying tactic on unlimited debate that can kill legislation if effective.
White House spokesman Robert Gibbs said Monday that in phone calls to reluctant Democrats in endangered districts, Obama "affirmed his commitment to support the policy position that they were taking in helping to explain to their constituents and to the American public the great benefit of this bill."
Still, in an interview with a small group of reporters, Obama energy adviser Carol Browner said: "I am confident that comprehensive energy legislation will pass the Senate." She repeatedly refused to say when the White House expects the Senate to pass the measure, and she would not speculate whether Obama would have legislation sent to his desk by the end of the year.
The White House is working to keep energy in the spotlight even as Congress takes a break this week for the July 4 Independence Day holiday. Obama has spent the past few days pressuring the Senate to follow the House while also seeking to show that the administration is making quick, clear progress on energy reform without legislation.
In February, the president directed the Energy Department to update its energy conservation standards for everyday household appliances such as dishwashers, lamps and microwave ovens. Laws on the books already required new efficiency standards for household and commercial appliances. But they have been backlogged in a tangle of missed deadlines, bureaucratic disputes and litigation.
The administration already has released new standards on commercial refrigeration. Lamps were next.