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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 protected] (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.