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Lamp manufacturers have recently started issuing record price increases on fluorescent light bulbs mainly due to the emerging shortage of “rare earth” metals used in their production—principally, phosphors. This shortage of metals is caused by a strategic reduction in exports by China, the world’s current and dominant leader in rare earth mining.

China has imposed new taxes and regulations to protect resources and manage environmental impact of rare earth mining.In October 2010, the Chinese announced plans to not only cut their production, but also to reduce exports by one-third. Then in early 2011, China imposed new taxes on rare earth materials to help pay for local environmental site remediation, and established future mining rules and regulations to control the demand rate of these materials. Since China currently produces 95% of the world’s total output of rare elements, the threat of global shortages is suddenly real and critical.

Consumption of rare earth metals is exacerbated by the increasing demand for and development of green technologies such as batteries, magnets, computer hard drives, TV screens, smart phones, and energy-saving light sources.

Energy-saving compact light bulbs gain much of their brightness from rare earth phosphors. With the industrialized world moving rapidly from incandescents to fluorescent bulbs, this industry represents a built-in and on-going demand for rare earths. The U.S. conversion from incandescents to fluorescents is scheduled to be complete by 2014.

Many lighting manufacturers have already issued dramatic price increases in response to this shortage, but the biggest impact is expected to come in Fall of 2011. Electrical distributors are seeing price increases on average of 25% across this specific product category, which will unfortunately be passed on to consumers starting immediately.

Consumers are being urged to act now, and take advantage of current pricing before the increases take effect. There may also be options for incentives with your local utility provider for implementing these energy-saving products.

Contact your local Codale Electric Supply branch location and speak to a sales associate today—don’t wait until it’s too late!