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Fury over California's Proposed TV Rules

Posted by: Cliff Edwards on November 3, 2009

With the California Energy Commission seemingly on the verge of outlawing flat-screen TV models that guzzle energy, the consumer electronics industry is taking issue with what it says are blatantly false accusations about their products.

In a blistering op-ed piece published in the San Francisco Chronicle on Nov. 3, Gary Shapiro, president of the Consumer Electronics Association, suggests televisions have become an easy scapegoat for regulators who are afraid to tackle thorny issues about the nation’s aging electricity grid, including the notion of building expensive new electricity plants and citing power lines in California communities.

Groups representing TV makers say that instead California regulators are being deceptive by promoting old energy-consumption figures for televisions when in fact many newer models burn no more energy than two 75-watt household light bulbs (which also are being banned).

The Plasma Display Coalition says it has asked the Energy Commission to update energy-use information widely accessible on the state web site, to no avail.

California’s proposed regulations actually would be less strict than new Energy Star guidelines adopted in September. The difference is that the Energy Star 4.0 and 5.0 specifications, which won’t take effect for a couple of years, are voluntary. There’s no penalty if manufacturers don’t meet them.

But the state’s energy-consumption rules would force some manufacturers to remove some models from one of the largest retail markets in the country.

In the end, the griping may mean nothing. The commission, with the endorsement of Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, looks set to impose energy usage limits on sets in short order. Late Nov. 3, it delayed a potential vote until an Nov. 18 meeting to go over industry and consumer submissions and comments on the proposal.

One big question is whether any of the industry groups is considering whether to file suit against the state to stop the first phase from taking effect in 2011. So far they have been reluctant to reveal plans on that front.

Reader Comments

Main Mac

November 3, 2009 5:59 PM

"no more energy than two 75-watt household light bulbs"...

or a single 150-watt light bulb, or why not just say as little as 150 watts? Good grief.


November 3, 2009 9:45 PM

We in California are led by fools. That's because the coast cities have all the political clout and they are populated by fools. So we have a legislature that couldn't promote commercial health if you held a gun to their heads. Oh wait, they won't give you a gun permit.


November 3, 2009 10:42 PM

Californians use TVs for watching movies and TV shows, most of which are produced in the Los Angeles area. Why not impose an energy tax on the producers of the shows? But then the liberal politicians are afraid of upsetting their liberal Hollywood friends.


November 3, 2009 11:03 PM

2x75W, it is a sly marketing technique. It makes the figures seem even lower to the average pleb who would see "150" and think geez that is high.

Like the 99c store. Which is actually the 1.25 store after taxes ;)

Disgruntle Eric

November 4, 2009 12:16 AM

I too hate it when authors try to place something that they don't understand into terms that they believe the rest will understand, as if they are the smartest people ans since they cannot understand what 150 watts is like they have to imagine two light bulbs. same as the things wrapping the world 2.5 times, or a particle accelerator weight, or how any medical advancement can potentially lead to a cure for cancer.

State facts as they are, if somebody cannot understand they will learn, and maybe Authors will strive to learn as well.


November 4, 2009 3:01 AM

The California Energy Commission, CEC, is the perfect example of too much government; too much needless regulation' and too much waste of taxes. While writing voluminous amount of complex regulations dictating from the manufacturing of appliances to the construction of residential and commercial buildings, the CEC depends on local building departments to enforce these convoluted rules which require a PhD or Master's degree in mechanical engineering or physic to fully understand and enforce. Consequently, with limited human resources local building departments can only provide cursory review and a rubber stamp of approval. CEC also duplicate as well as confuse energy regulations already published by national code publishers. In addition to CEC's voluminous regulations codified in California Title 24, CEC also publishes several separate design books for Office Buildings, Residential dwelling, and non-residential buildings. But for the massive out pouring of opposition from the construction industries several years ago, the CEC would have published a separate set of regulations for restaurant, retail, and hotel buildings. When 90% of energy conservation can be achieved by specifying minimum R-values for roof, wall and window as well as a narrow range of appliance efficiency, the question begging to be asked is: For whom do all these energy regulations really serve? The voluminous books of CEC regulations are self-serving by creating a raison-d'-etre within the citadel of state government. When meaningful energy regulations that achieve 90% of the energy loss or gain can fit into two sheets of 8.5x11.5 paper, CEC is superfluous. Unfortunately, that would put the CEC out of business. Outside the walls of Sacramento, the CEC has successfully created a collage industry for paper pushers who call themselves "energy consultants." They collect needless consultant fees as well as delay construction schedule for punching in numbers in a "black-box" energy software programs that spits out data on reams of paper that few plan examiners of the local building department fully understand or enforce. It is also well known that many of the so called "energy consultant" are also clueless as to the depth of Title-24 energy code. Naturally, these consultants, whose financial well being depends on ever more complex CEC energy regulation, love the CEC. If California is serious about balancing its budget; restarting its economy; and reducing the size of state government, as a starting point the Governor should abolish the CEC and codify the two sheets of simplified energy rules in Title-24.


November 4, 2009 12:16 PM

Toward Ballbuster's end, how about taking the budget for the CEC and using it to insulate every building in California? You'd get less energy consumption and a lot less hot air.

slash paren

November 4, 2009 2:18 PM

1. Through first hand testing, the top tier TV brands do not fulfill EnergyStar compliance as they currently claim.

2. Through first hand testing, the top tier cable boxes lack EnergyStar, cause TV's to burn excessive energy and likely damage the attached TV's. More conservation could be achieved by improving supervision of cable operators.

John B

November 4, 2009 6:01 PM

I deference to a previous commnent, the whole industry inadvertently or otherwise seems to be dumbing us down with idiotic comparisons to 2x75 watt bulbs. Why not state the relative power consumption figures of various technologies e.g. plasma, LCD LED etc. and let the public make up their own mind. This constant quoting of product features instead of factual information pushes folks to fringe of stupidity.


November 12, 2009 1:26 PM

Maybe we should turn off some of the spotlights used to produce all the movies and tv in Calif. I think that would be a major savings on many issues not just TV's...

peter dublin

November 21, 2009 11:43 AM

Governor Schwarzenegger is shooting himself in the foot!

This ban is wrong also in an overall energy savings perspective.

1. Where there is a problem - deal with the problem!

Energy: there is no energy shortage
(given renewable/nuclear development possibilities, with set emission limits)
and consumers - not politicians - pay for energy and how they wish to use it.

It might sound great to
"Let everyone save money by only allowing energy efficient products"
Inefficient products that use more energy can have performance,
appearance and construction advantages
Examples (using cars, buildings, dishwashers, TV sets, light bulbs etc):
For example, big plasma TV screens have image contrast and other
advantages along with their large image sizes.

Products using more energy usually cost less, or they'd be more energy
efficient already.
Depending on how much they are used, there might therefore not be any
running cost savings either.

Other factors contribute to a lack of savings:

If households use less energy,
then utility companies make less money,
and will just raise electricity prices to cover their costs.
So people don't save as much money as they thought.

energy efficiency in effect means cheaper energy,
so people just leave TV sets etc on more, knowing that energy bills are lower,
as also shown by Scottish and Cambridge research

Either way, supposed energy - or money - savings aren't there.

2. Taxation, while still wrong, is better than bans for all concerned.
TV set taxation based on energy efficiency - unlike bans - gives
Governor Schwarzenegger's impoverished California Government income on
the reduced sales, while consumers keep choice.
This also applies generally,
where politicians instead keep trying to define what people can or can't use.
Politicians can use the tax money raised to fund home insulation
schemes, renewable projects etc that lower energy use and emissions
more than remaining product use raises them.
Energy efficient products can have any sales taxes lowered, making
them cheaper than today.
People are not just hit by taxes, they don't have to buy the higher
taxed products - and at least they CAN still buy them.

Why energy efficiency regulations are wrong,
whether you are for or against energy and emission conservation
Politicians don't object to energy efficiency as it sounds too good to
be true. It is.
--The Consumer Side
Product Performance -- Construction and Appearance
Price Increase -- Lack of Actual Savings: Money, Energy or Emissions.
Choice and Quality affected
-- The Manufacturer Side
Meeting Consumer Demand -- Green Technology -- Green Marketing
--The Energy Side
Energy Supply -- Energy Security -- Cars and Oil Dependence
--The Emission Side
Buildings -- Industry -- Power Stations -- Light Bulbs and other
electrical products

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Bloomberg Businessweek writers Peter Burrows, Cliff Edwards, Olga Kharif, Aaron Ricadela, and Douglas MacMillan, dig behind the headlines to analyze what’s really happening throughout the world of technology. Tech Beat covers everything from tech bellwethers like Apple, Google, and Intel and emerging new leaders such as Facebook to new technologies, trends, and controversies.



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