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LET THERE BE CHEAPER LIGHT

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Build a better mouse trap and the world is supposed to beat a path to your door. But don't always count on it - at least not if you're building a better something besides mouse traps.

This week a Sunnyvale, Calif., firm called Intersource Technologies announced the advent of a new product that could be much more important and revolutionary than a better mouse trap. It's a better light bulb.So much better, in fact, is the new bulb - called the E-lamp - that it is designed to last 10 to 14 years and consume 75 percent less electricity than the standard light bulb.

If a quarter of the present light bulbs in the United States were replaced with the E-lamp, power plants would not have to produce as much electricity, meaning an annual reduction of 63 million tons of carbon dioxide emitted into the atmosphere.

What's the catch? Well, there are a few.

For one thing, the new bulbs will cost $10 to $20 apiece when they go on sale next year. Though the E-lamp promises long-range savings, its high initial outlay is bound to cut down on the number of consumers beating a path to Intersource Technologies' door. For another thing, because the E-lamp emits radio waves, it could interfere with the operation of other home electrical products such as TV sets and telephones.

But technology has an admirable track record for eventually overcoming such technical difficulties. As for the high price, it can be expected to come down as the new bulbs are produced in greater volume.

Don't rush out and sell all your power company stocks. But the electric utilities ought to keep looking over their shoulders; a potentially remarkable change in America's energy consumption patterns could be gaining on them.