Tuesday, November 3, 2009


Wow--the CEA really is a dinosaur--oh sorry, people out there in this benighted land don't believe in dinosaurs. I keep forgetting. Anyway, this is a valuable story from the San Jose Mercury

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Wolverton: Tech group looking backward on efficiency rules

By Troy Wolverton

Mercury News Columnist
Posted: 11/01/2009 04:00:00 PM PST
Updated: 11/03/2009 05:28:02 AM PST

For an organization that prides itself on representing one of America's most forward-looking industries, the Consumer Electronics Association has sounded more like the stodgy old Chamber of Commerce lately.

A case in point is the tech trade group's response to California's proposal to make televisions more energy-efficient, scheduled for final approval this week.

It's not just that the CEA, whose membership includes a broad spectrum of tech companies, such as Intel, Microsoft and Apple, has challenged the regulations with dubious claims that they'll raise TV prices by hundreds of dollars, lead to thousands of job losses and millions of dollars in lost tax revenue.

It's not just that the organization has been on a fear-mongering crusade that the rules will curtail the number and kind of TVs that Californians can choose from, and potentially stymie new technologies such as 3-D television.

No, the organization's rear-guard action goes much further by challenging the very idea that California and its Energy Commission should be putting a cap on energy use by TVs.

As Doug Johnson, the CEA's senior director of technology policy, put it, the proposed regulations are "an egregious action. They're neither justified nor necessary."

Such a hard-line stance resembles the one taken lately by the Chamber of Commerce, which has a history of opposing regulation, in resisting legislation that would attempt to curb global
warming through establishing a cap-and-trade system for carbon emissions. And it's similarly out of touch with reality.

Because here's the thing: Attempts to curb energy usage didn't begin with TVs — and they're not going to stop there.

Already, the federal government has set efficiency standards for light bulbs that will effectively ban standard incandescent bulbs by 2014. The state Energy Commission, which has been at the forefront of demanding improved energy efficiency, has already set standards for everything from air conditioners to refrigerators. In recent years, it's begun to eye the consumer-electronics industry, setting rules for how much electricity can be consumed by power plugs and by devices in standby mode.

The growing concerns about both global warming and foreign fuel imports inevitably mean that there will be more standards to come. And tech gadgets are a fat target because they represent a big and growing portion of consumer electricity use.

Not only do we have more gadgets than ever in our homes and use them more often, but many of those gadgets aren't particularly efficient. Desktop PCs, digital video recorders and video game consoles can all consume 100 or more watts, which is in the same neighborhood as the televisions that the energy commission is considering regulating. Making them more energy-efficient will be great for consumers, who will see lower power bills.

What's more, just as is the case with the Chamber of Commerce and global warming, some of the CEA's own members are questioning its stance. California-based TV manufacturer Vizio supports the new regulations, as does the LCD TV Association, which is composed of TV manufacturers and TV part makers such as Dolby, Corning and Westinghouse.

Despite this, the CEA has repeatedly fought against efficiency standards for tech products. It opposed the standby power regulations, it opposed efficiency standards for digital television converter boxes and it opposed the efficiency rules for power adapters. Employing similar language as it has used in the TV debate, the organization argued the measures would stifle innovation and limit consumer choice. That didn't happen before and almost certainly won't this time.

By opposing nearly all mandatory efficiency standards, the CEA runs the risk of being ignored in the policymaking processes — and as a result, seeing even stiffer regulations that its members would have even more difficulty meeting.

Some resistance should be expected, of course. No business or industry likes the government telling them what to do.

But with more efforts to spur energy conservation clearly coming, you'd hope that the CEA would take a less confrontational, more cooperative stance. Instead of fighting the notion that there should even be any rules, it should be working with regulators to make sure the ones they impose are reasonable for both consumers and the industry.

Johnson said the CEA has been attempting to do just that. The group isn't opposed to all regulation and it supports the goal of energy efficiency, he said. But he also charged that the state energy commission's regulatory process is "incredibly unbalanced and biased against our industry" and that the commission has "no interest in responding to legitimate concerns."

The fact is that regulators at both the state and federal level have shown they can be flexible. The federal law on lighting efficiency, for example, exempted three-way bulbs and set lower efficiency standards for incandescents than for fluorescents. Similarly, the state Energy Commission recently decided to exempt TVs larger than 58 inches from its initial efficiency requirements and has incorporated several of CEA's suggestions into its draft rules on TV energy use.

It's time for the CEA to show similar flexibility. If not, the organization risks looking as out of touch and irrelevant as the chamber.

And that's not something you'd want from a group that's supposed to have its eyes on the future.

Contact Troy Wolverton

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