Perhaps the timing is finally right. With Al Gore winning a Nobel prize for highlighting the issue of global warming, the Madison Common Council may feel inspired to pass an ordinance requiring landlords to use energy-efficient light bulbs.
At Tuesday's Common Council meeting, Alds. Larry Palm and Brian Solomon will re-introduce the proposal. A similar motion, partly inspired by Gore's anti-global warming movie, An Inconvenient Truth, failed last spring.
"The makeup of the council has changed a bit," says Jennifer Feyerherm, a spokeswoman for the Sierra Club. "People mostly think it's a good idea."
If the measure passes this time, landlords will have to use energy-efficient bulbs in all common areas, within units and in all 'Exit' signs. That could mean thousands of incandescent light bulbs all over the city being replaced with the more expensive compact fluorescent bulbs.
Critics last time around complained that there's no way to enforce the ordinance. And the fluorescent bulbs are difficult to dispose of because they contain mercury, which cannot go into a landfill.
But Feyerherm notes the bulbs can be recycled at any store where they are sold. And the bulbs use less energy, which often comes from coal-fired plants. "Even if they are thrown away and that mercury got into the landfill," says Feyerherm, "it's still less than the mercury we are producing to power the old-fashioned light bulbs."
Al Gore would be proud.