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Fury over California's Proposed TV Rules

With the California Energy Commission seemingly on the verge of outlawing flat-screen TV models that guzzle energy, the consumer electronics industry is taking issue with what it says are blatantly false accusations about their products.

In a blistering op-ed piece published in the San Francisco Chronicle on Nov. 3, Gary Shapiro, president of the Consumer Electronics Association, suggests televisions have become an easy scapegoat for regulators who are afraid to tackle thorny issues about the nation’s aging electricity grid, including the notion of building expensive new electricity plants and citing power lines in California communities.

Groups representing TV makers say that instead California regulators are being deceptive by promoting old energy-consumption figures for televisions when in fact many newer models burn no more energy than two 75-watt household light bulbs (which also are being banned).

The Plasma Display Coalition says it has asked the Energy Commission to update energy-use information widely accessible on the state web site, to no avail.

California’s proposed regulations actually would be less strict than new Energy Star guidelines adopted in September. The difference is that the Energy Star 4.0 and 5.0 specifications, which won’t take effect for a couple of years, are voluntary. There’s no penalty if manufacturers don’t meet them.

But the state’s energy-consumption rules would force some manufacturers to remove some models from one of the largest retail markets in the country.

In the end, the griping may mean nothing. The commission, with the endorsement of Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, looks set to impose energy usage limits on sets in short order. Late Nov. 3, it delayed a potential vote until an Nov. 18 meeting to go over industry and consumer submissions and comments on the proposal.

One big question is whether any of the industry groups is considering whether to file suit against the state to stop the first phase from taking effect in 2011. So far they have been reluctant to reveal plans on that front.

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