California Bans Power-Hungry TVs: Critics Blast Regulation

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California Bans Power Hungry TVs: Critics Blast Regulation
Artwork: Chip Taylor, Photographs: Robert Cardin
California TV shoppers are going green - whether they like it or not. On Wednesday, the California Energy Commission voted unanimously to apply a new standard requiring TVs up to 58-inches in screen size sold in the state to eat up 33 percent less electricity than they do currently by 2011 and 49 percent less by 2013.

The move is a first-ever clamp down on TV set sales in an effort to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. However, not everyone is excited about the regulation's possible impact. Representatives for the consumer electronics industry have blasted the measure saying that the new rules will drive up the cost of HDTVs for state residents, result in the loss of California-based jobs, and limit the number of innovative HDTV features available to California TV owners.

The new regulation does not impact TVs currently on retail shelves. The California regulation takes effect Jan. 1, 2011.

Despite the lingering energy crisis, California is the first state to take action of this kind. Although the U.S. government has guidelines such as Energy Star in place for PCs and other computers, there is no federal energy efficiency standard for TVs.

Impact on Sales and Price Unclear

Since the new energy rules have just been passed, many of its future implications remain unknown. How will flat panel TV makers such as Sony, Samsung, and Panasonic handle compliance with the California law? What loopholes might exist? Can California residents buy a power hungry TV over the Internet that doesn't meet California's standards and get away with it? Will manufacturers try to elude the law by focusing sales and promotions on larger TVs with screen sizes greater than 58 inches. TVs with screen sizes larger than 58 inches now account for no more than 3 percent of all TVs sold, according to industry statistics.

Most significantly, how much will it cost TV makers to obey the energy efficiency regulations, and how much of those costs will be passed along to consumers?

Not Everyone Excited

The Consumer Electronics Association, which members include some of the biggest TV makers, says this new regulation is "unprecedented and unnecessary." Jason Oxman, CEA's senior vice president of industry affairs blasted CEC in a statement released to its Web site Wednesday:

"Simply put, this is bad policy-dangerous for the California economy, dangerous for technology innovation and dangerous for consumer freedom. Instead of allowing customers to choose the products they want, the Commission has decided to impose arbitrary standards that will hamper innovation and limit consumer choice. It will result in higher prices for consumers, job losses for Californians, and lost tax revenue for the state."

You can read CEA's entire statement here. What the CEA fails to do in its attack against the California Energy Commission is explain how jobs will be lost, why consumers will pay more for HDTVs, and what innovative features will be missing from HDTVs sold in California.

According to California's energy commission, state residents are expected to save $8.1 billion in energy costs over a 10-year period as a result of the regulation. Additionally, California commission says the new restrictions will be like taking 500,000 cars off its roads by reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 3 million metric tons a year.

(PC World's Tom Spring contributed to this report)

This story, "California Bans Power-Hungry TVs: Critics Blast Regulation" was originally published by PCWorld.

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