Barack Obama: President, family man, LED guy

This is not a riddle. What did President Obama say when 200 mayors walked into a room at the White House late last week?

He told them to save energy by converting outdoor lighting to LED systems.

'Outdoor lighting consumes enough energy to power 6 million homes for a year, costing cities about $10 billion per year,' the White House said on its website on Friday as Obama prepared to host over 200 mayors later that day, when he would talk up LEDs as part of a broad discussion on energy and other subjects like jobs, education and health care.

'That is why today, we are launching a Presidential Challenge for Advanced Outdoor Lighting,' it continued. 'As part of The Challenge the Department of Energy is tripling our goal of upgrading 500,000 poles, which we are already on track to exceed through DOE's Better Buildings program, and setting a new goal of 1.5 million poles.'

On the White House blog that day, Obama's deputy assistant for energy and climate change Dan Utech noted:

LED light bulbs are an example of a lighting success story that, when taken to the streets, makes a lot of sense. The technology has rapidly improved over the past several years, and the price has dropped. As the technology advances, communities are installing LEDs, and showcasing market acceptance and satisfaction with the technology. Some communities are showing even greater energy savings —as much as 70 percent more with lighting controls. Together with new light bulbs, advanced lighting systems are paying off.

It presented a perfect sales opportunity for the industry.

In a CNN story about Obama's mayoral pep talk, Hugh Martin, CEO of Sunnyvale, Calif.-based networked lighting and sensor specialist Sensity Systems, said that converting old lights to LEDs allows cities to also install a network of sensors that gathers data about traffic patterns, weather, parking spots and even terrorism.

'You could actually put a computer in there and do a lot of other things,' Martin said. 'We put in a sensor and a network and gather information about what's going on in the city for cities to use.'

It's just the sort of thing that Sensity has teamed with networking giant Cisco to do.

CNN wrote, 'According to Martin there are about 530 million high powered lights -- such as street lights, parking lot lights and warehouse lights -- in the country. He predicts that the U.S. would save about $94 billion a year in energy savings and maintenance by switching those to LEDs. Converting all of those lights to LEDs would save about 290 million tons of CO2 emissions a year, Martin says.'

Obama's charms seem to be working on at least some of the mayors, who were in town for the annual US Conference of Mayors. The White House said that it had already received pledges from 2 states, 10 cities and 3 regional networks to meet goal of tripling the number of LED pole upgrages to 1.5 million.

The folksy Obama, whose short bio could boast 'president' and 'family man,' might now add another moniker: 'LED guy.'

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Photo is from the Everett Collection via Shutterstock