How many Energy secretaries does it take to change a light bulb?

In the Obama administration, the job of secretary of Energy may include responsibility for changing the light bulbs in the White House.

That was President Obama’s implication, in any case, as he announced new federal lamp and lighting standards on Monday.

New federal efficiency standards for fluorescent and incandescent lighting could save US consumers up to $4 billion a year, said Mr. Obama, and eliminate the need for as many as 14 new coal-fired power plants.

Then the nation’s chief executive nodded toward Energy Secretary Steven Chu, who was standing next to him behind the podium.

“And by the way, we’re going to start here at the White House,” said Obama. “Secretary Chu’s already started to take a look at our light bulbs, and we’re going to see what we need to replace them with energy-efficient light bulbs.”

This remark appeared to be slightly jocular. Secretary Chu is a prominent physicist whose awards include a Nobel Prize. That makes him overqualified, in terms of deciding whether a particular East Room lamp needs the equivalent of 60 or 40 watts.

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