California's jihad against flat-screen TVs

The state approves new energy efficiency requirements for the audiovisual equivalent of gas-guzzling SUVs

Published November 18, 2009 11:45PM (EST)

An eye-opening statistic in Todd Woody's Green Inc. report on California's brand spanking new energy efficiency rules for televisions.

Energy commission staff estimated that televisions and various set-top boxes now account for about 10 percent of residential electricity consumption in California, up from 3 to 4 percent in the 1990s. Without imposing standards, as California has done for a number of other home appliances, electricity use by televisions could jump to as much as 18 percent by 2023, according to the commission.

That would be the "Wall-E" dystopian future, folks. Nearly 20 percent of California's electricity consumed by couch potatoes watching ESPN's SportsCenter, "So You Think You Can Dance," and Hannah Montana reruns. I lust after a sweet 42-inch flat-screen as much as any other red-blooded consumer, but that certainly seems extravagant to me. Wasteful, even. And probably unnecessary, given the extraordinary gains in energy efficiency manufacturers were able to achieve with refrigerators, washing machines, and dishwashers after California told them to tighten up their act.

But don't try telling that to an industry flack.

"Television manufacturers will see an increase in the cost of compliance due to increased research and development, component sourcing, design and development," wrote Tim Brison, a senior vice president for Sony Electronics, in a Nov. 2 letter to the commission...

"The consumer electronics industry and California consumers bear the burden of the regulations so PG&E can meet its energy milestones," [said Jason Oxman, a senior vice president with the Consumer Electronics Association.]

Evil California! The energy commissars are coming to take your TV away! Next thing you know, we'll be back to black-and-white and forced to eat vacuum tubes with our broccoli. Oh the ignominy. First they demonize our SUVs and now they're shaming us for our wasteful television habits!

Prediction: Ten years from now, all the televisions sold in the United States will be vastly more energy efficient than they are now, and no one will give it a second thought. We'll also have avoided building a few new power plants just to maintain our sedentary life-styles.

By Andrew Leonard

Andrew Leonard is a staff writer at Salon. On Twitter, @koxinga21.

MORE FROM Andrew Leonard

Related Topics ------------------------------------------

California Energy How The World Works