Thursday, September 17, 2009


Giant screen TVs under fire in California


The Golden State has long charted its own course on automobile regulations and, effectively, forced the rest of the nation to follow suit, due to its huge market. Now California is proposing to do much the same with television sets – and that has the manufacturers up in arms.

Under a regulation pending before the California Energy Commission (CEC), television sets sold in the state after January 1, 2011 would have to meet energy efficiency standards designed to reduce electrical consumption by an average of 33%. Even stricter limits would take effect two years later, which combined with the earlier move would reduce energy consumption by an average of 49%.

As you would expect, this is not sitting well with the Consumer Electronics Association (CEA), which is battling the proposed regulation. It has joined with other organizations in launching a campaign against the proposal, arguing that it would reduce consumer choice and cost jobs. CEC attacked CEA on its website as “a high-powered television industry lobby” and dismissed its arguments, saying it “assumes that televisions that do not comply with the proposed efficiency standards will simply go away leaving a void in the marketplace.” CEC insists that new, more energy-efficient models will fill that void. And it notes that nearly 850 models already meet the proposed 2011 standard, including 231 models that meet the 2013 standard.

A Zogby poll commissioned by CEA has found widespread citizen opposition to the proposed standard – with 57% of those surveyed against regulating electricity usage by televisions. 61% said there are already too many regulations in California. 59% said what TV to buy should be a consumer’s choice, not the government’s. 58% said the proposed CEC regulation was another “costly and unnecessary” government burden on small business owners. And 55% believe Governor Arnold Schwarzenner (R) should block the CEC from adopting the regulation.

Business groups and other organizations opposed to the CEC proposal have banded together as Californians for Smart Energy. It released results of the Zogby poll commissioned by CEA to demonstrate how widespread the opposition is to the proposed regulation. “If adopted, television manufacturers would be required to meet an artificial energy use limit in order to sell their televisions in California. The CEC’s regulation would effectively ban the sale of 25 percent of current big screen TV models and 100 percent of plasma TVs larger than 60 inches in California. According to a Resolution Economics, LLC study, the CEC’s regulation would cost California $50 million a year in lost tax revenues and destroy 4,600 jobs,” the group stated.

RBR/TVBR observation: The California Energy Commission is trying to portray this as much ado about nothing, since the proposed regulation would not kick in until 2011 and lots of models already meet the energy efficiency limits. The Consumer Electronics Association, quite rightly, sees this as a slippery slope, with ever-tightening regulations ahead. And, just as with autos, the California market is so large that the state can essentially impose its will on the entire country by making it impractical for a manufacturer to make one model for California and another for the rest of the US. We doubt that any manufacturer would be willing to take the other course, and bow out of the huge consumer market in California.

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