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If you’re concerned about global warming but can’t afford a hybrid car, try changing the light bulbs in your home. The swirl-cone fluorescent bulbs, which use just a fraction of the energy of traditional bulbs, are on the front line of environmental regulation as lawmakers see them as a relatively painless way to do something about greenhouse gas emissions. Assemblyman Lloyd Levine, D-Van Nuys, has already proposed a ban on incandescent bulbs, while Rep. Jane Harman, D-El Segundo, has proposed a bill that would dramatically ratchet up energy efficiency over the next 13 years. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, the average home pollutes more than the average car. So if all American households changed five light bulbs to compact fluorescents, it would be equivalent to removing 8 million cars from the road. The reason, federal officials say, is that most of the nation’s electricity comes from coal-burning plants, which emit carbon dioxide as a byproduct. About 20 percent of electricity used in homes goes to lighting. So a switch to compact fluorescent bulbs, which use about a quarter of the energy of incandescent bulbs to generate the same amount of light, makes a difference. email@example.com (310) 543-6639 160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set! Harman’s bill, which she announced on the liberal blog The Huffington Post, would require incandescent bulbs to meet today’s fluorescent standards of energy efficiency by 2012. By 2020, incandescents would have to be about 10 times more efficient than they are today. “We set standards for lots of things in this country. If we are serious about tackling global warming, we’re going to have to set more standards for energy efficiency.” Compact fluorescents generally cost $3 to $5 each, compared with as little as 50 cents for an incandescent bulb. But fluorescents last 10-15 times longer while also slashing energy costs, making them substantially more cost effective than incandescents. But critics note that fluorescent bulbs contain a small amount of mercury, so they must either be recycled or taken to an electronic waste disposal site. Supporters of fluorescent technology note that mercury is released during the production of electricity from coal, which means the net effect of fluorescents on mercury pollution is still positive. Some homeowners dislike the quality of the light, which can feel a little colder than incandescent bulbs.
This month, the NOAA Climate Prediction Center reported that surface ocean temperatures from Peru to the Philippines had cooled 1 degree this summer, signalling a La Ni a. The 8,000-mile-wide current can push the storm-bearing jet stream north, dumping buckets on the Pacific Northwest. But it can also rob the Southwest – now in its eighth year of drought – of rain needed to refill aquifers, rebuild snowpack and replenish dangerously dry brush after last year’s 3.2 inches of rain and 78 days of howling Santa Anas. “A typical La Ni a pattern means drier and warmer weather than normal for Southern California,” said Ken Clark, senior meteorologist for Accuweather.com. “We could be looking at 10 percent less rain than normal – or 60 percent less rain.” With thousands of firefighters battling two blazes near Big Bear Lake in San Bernardino County and Julian in San Diego County before the onset of the Santa Anas this month, less rain could mean an especially long fire season. Following its driest weather season in history, Southern California can expect to get less than two-thirds its normal rainfall – or less than 10 inches – this winter, forecasters say. That means more concerns for firefighters facing already critically dry brush as well as Southland cities considering water rationing. “Right now, we have a developing La Nina – the demon diva of drought,” said Bill Patzert, a research oceanographer at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in La Canada Flintridge, who predicted less than 10 inches compared to the normal 15 in Los Angeles. “If it’s a dry winter, that means a higher frequency of Santa Anas. In terms of a fire season … it’s a potential monster coming out of the High Desert.” “I’m still worried about this fall when the Santa Anas kick off,” said Los Angeles County fire Chief John Todd, head of the Forestry Division. “A lack of rain in the future will make it an even more difficult situation. “It may mean more work for us firefighters.” With Long Beach beginning mandatory water restrictions and other cities expected to follow suit, many water agencies fear the worst. Water imports from Northern California are expected to be cut by a third because of a court order to protect the delta smelt. The Metropolitan Water District of Southern California warned this month of mandatory rationing for the first time since 1991. Los Angeles, which normally gets half its water from the eastern Sierras, has had to buy 70 percent of its water from the MWD at a cost of $100 million. This spring, city officials called on residents to cut water use 10percent by taking shorter showers, using less water on the lawn and by sweeping, not hosing, off the driveway. In addition, the DWP is conserving through greater use of reclaimed water, stormwater capture and “green” buildings designed to save water. Because of increasing conservation, the Department of Water and Power reports water demands have been steady for 25 years – despite a million new residents. “At this moment, we clearly have adequate storage, and there’s no present need to move toward more drastic measures such as rationing,” said David Nahai, president of the DWP commission. “But we must be watchful that that isn’t necessary. … The amount of (potable) water that goes on lawns, parks, golf courses and freeway medians is a criminal waste for us, and we have to rethink it.” Today, the city is expected to sign an agreement with the county to triple the holding capacity of Big Tujunga Dam to 6,000 acre- feet to capture more stormwater. In Sacramento, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger has called for a special session to discuss water issues and health care. Across the state, officials say 70percent of water is used for crops, with the remainder used for residents. At home, about 70 percent of water goes on lawns and shrubs. For that reason, many see many more turns at the spigot to effect conservation. “If we stopped watering the streets, sidewalks and driveways, we wouldn’t have to ration water,” Patzert said. For the Southern California weather guru, the only conflict about forecasting the rains lies between his Sierra Madre oak tree and his La Ni a science charts. This year’s heavy blanket of acorns, according to Indian folklore, mean a heavy rain winter, which they had accurately forecast in 1997-98 and 2004-05. La Ni a, however, portends another dry season. “At night, it sounds like a machine gun of acorns on my redwood deck,” Patzert said. “The folklore tells us greater than 20 inches, but the facts suggest less than 10.” firstname.lastname@example.org (818) 713-3730160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set!