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Proposal Could Ban the Sale of Plasma TVs in California

by Jason Lomberg, Technical Editor

Plasma_displayJason_Pic130The California Energy Commission (CEC) is moving ahead with a proposal that could make Plasma TVs legally obsolete. Based on the 2008 Report, “Draft Efficiency Standards for Television” (which drew heavily from Pacific Gas and Electric Company findings), the proposal would set a cap on the maximum active mode power usage (watts). This would effectively ban the sale of Plasma, DLP, rear projector, and certain LCD TV’s in California.

The CEC report states that, “the current United States Department of Energy (U.S. DOE) test method for testing and measuring active mode energy consumption of TVs is outdated, and is not suitable for modern televisions using Liquid Crystal Display (LCD) and plasma based digital technologies.” They make three recommendations:

• Two Tiers of efficiency standards for active mode , similar to PG&E’s proposal

• A revision of the existing standby mode standard to reflect technological advances, and

• A requirement that televisions meet a specific power factor standard.

Their two-tiered system is outlined in the chart below:

CEC Proposal

The following table details the average power usage by technology:

Power Usage Chart

Plasma TVs consume the most energy, so as a whole, they’d be eliminated. DLP and Rear Projection wouldn’t fare much better. The CEC’s proposal is eerily similar to California’s recent request for exemption from Federal tailpipe emissions standards. The latter would set a 36 MPG (average) target for all cars sold in California by 2016. Both are part and parcel of California’s anti-business climate.

“The Golden State” is known for its hostility toward businesses. Forbes ranked California 40th in its 2008 Best States for Business. The Small Business & Entrepreneurship Council put California 49th in business friendliness (ahead of only New Jersey and Washington DC). And Chief Executive Online placed Cali dead last in its Best and Worst States for Business.

The CEC is encountering strong opposition from the Consumer Electronics Association (CEA). In a recent op-ed under “CEA Digital Dialogue,” the CEA’s Sarah Szabo opined that, “If this proposal is adopted, 25 percent of televisions could be pulled off of California retailers’ shelves, resulting in fewer choices and higher prices for California consumers.  The local California economy will suffer even more as banned products translate into lost jobs and closed stores for retailers.” Szabo added that, “the idea of government restricting the main source of entertainment in my home is more than a bit disturbing.”

What about those consumers who prefer Plasma? Many feel that Plasma provides better picture quality. The CEC’s recommendation? Turn down the brightness and contrast settings (i.e. switch it from “torch” to “movie” mode). To paraphrase Szabo, the idea of government telling me how to watch TV is very disturbing.

Do you agree? Disagree? Think I've gone loco? Leave a comment below or e-mail me directly at (e-mailed comments may be published).

Note: The preceding represents the view of the editor and not necessarily that of ECN.