California Approves Energy Standards for Televisions

Plasma power restrictions in place

Image from Picasa.

Image from Picasa.

Always a trailblazer for green policies, California today approved a policy that will put in place efficiency regulations for televisions. These regulations have become necessary thanks to liquid-crystal display and plasma high-definition TVs, which use more than three times as much power as their old-fashioned counterparts.

Energy standards have been put in place regarding large appliances such as refrigerators and air conditioners since the 1970s. California is the first state to pass efficiency regulations for televisions. However, while I think it’s a good idea to create policies that apply to public utilities, I see one flaw in California’s new policy: It applies only to TVs that are 58 inches or smaller.

Once again, rules don’t apply to the rich

All payday loan lenders in California have to follow the same regulations; why don’t all individuals have to follow the same energy consumption rules? To me, it seems as though the state is saying that if you have enough money to afford a huge big-screen TV, the rules don’t apply to  you.

I understand that the reason for the cutoff is that it’s impossible to make 60-inch plasma TVs that would fit the energy standards. However, if California is already placing restrictions on the types of TVs people can buy, why make the exception? Why is it OK for people to use inefficient televisions just because they are huge?

Hollywood hoarders

If this energy policy were to be put into effect somewhere else, it might not matter that super-huge TVs were exempt from the ban. However, there are a whole lot of people who can afford 60 and 72 and 100-inch televisions in California. Hollywood, Beverly Hills and Orange County in general are already crawling with them, just to name a few areas.

Placing the cutoff was likely the result of a compromise with electronics trade groups, which fought against the policy. They are the ones directly affected by the regulations because the law states they can’t sell energy gobbling TVs in the state. The rules don’t say anything about what types of televisions people are allowed to own. Televisions that Californians already own or purchase between now and when the policy goes into effect aren’t subject to the regulations. The standards will be enforced for retailers starting in 2011.

Better than nothing?

The L.A. Times says that the regulations will be a big help in conserving energy in California:

The energy commission estimates that switching to more efficient TVs would save an average of $30 per set per year and $8.1 billion in electricity bills statewide over the first decade. Moving to more efficient televisions would eliminate the need to build at least one large, gas-fired electric power plant, the energy commission says.

Clearly California regulators have done their homework, and the standards will be helpful in their state. I think switching to more energy efficient appliances is always a good idea. It helps the public as well as individuals. However, I dislike the fact that this policy implies what so many people don’t want to believe is true: If you  have enough money, you don’t have to follow the rules.

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