California May Ban Big Screen TVs

The state may force retailers to sell only energy-efficient models by 2011.

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State legislators in California are drafting regulations that may prevent California retailers from selling power-sucking big screen TVs by 2011. It's a move that, according to EcoGeek, may eliminate plasma screen TVs from the market there, as they're less efficient than LCDs (though, inch-for-inch, both TVs are more efficient than cathode ray TVs - they're just bigger). Retailers are upset that the regulations would send customers to neighboring states, or online, for purchases.

Says the LA Times:

The consumer electronics industry opposes the regulations, expected to pass in mid-2009, and claims that they could remove some TVs from store shelves and slightly boost sticker prices.

But the California Energy Commission is looking for ways to relieve the strain on the power grid. Officials say the standards, once fully in place, would reduce the state's annual energy needs by an amount equivalent to the power consumed by 86,400 homes.

During a peak viewing time when most sets are on, such as the Super Bowl, TVs in the state collectively suck up the equivalent of 40% of the power generated by the San Onofre nuclear power station running at full capacity. Televisions account for about 10% of the average Californian's monthly household electricity bill.

[Check out some energy-saving tips for your home]

Tim Haab of Environmental Economics takes issue with a claim that the California economy would be boosted by the move. "How will the economy be boosted? By raising the price on TVs? By decreasing the sales of new TVs? I'm missing something. I don't know, but my economic senses always tingle when I see claims that new regulation will boost economic growth. The logic seems flawed to me."

Jaymi Heimbuch of Treehugger thinks the regulations would help consumers make choices - if you can even call the result of this "choice": "The new rules would go a long way in helping consumers make energy efficient choices - they'd be the only choices available."

Meanwhile, Hank Green of EcoGeek believes that consumer should pay for their eco-unfriendly choices: "Really, if you want your entire living room wall to be a television screen...you should be willing to pay a few extra dollars for it."

Hard to believe there hasn't been more of a fuss from consumers about this yet. Plenty of other appliances have tough energy standards, but we're certainly more sensitive about our home theaters. Should California be able to restrict consumers' choices for the good of the grid?