Economy booster: California looking to ban plasma TVs

California has a rapidly-expanding budget shortfall, unemployment going above 10% for the first time since the early 1980s, and perhaps the worst business climate in the nation, excepting Michigan.  How does the state plan to boost the economy, create jobs, and build consumer confidence?  They want to ban plasma TVs because they’re not green enough:

In their continuing quest to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, state regulators have uncovered a new villain in the war on global warming : your big screen TV

Couch potatoes, beware.

The California Energy Commission is considering a proposal that would ban California retailers from selling all but the most energy-efficient televisions. Critics say the news standards could take 25 percent of televisions off the market — most of them 40 inches or larger.

“The larger the television, the more at risk it is of being banned unnecessarily in California,” said Douglas Johnson, senior director of technology police for the Consumer Electronics Association.

Association officials say the standards are not only unnecessary –  because the federal government already regulates energy efficiency through the voluntary Energy Star program — but also ill-timed. The last thing our economy needs now is products taken off the market, they say.

The state energy commission denies it wants to ban any kind of television sets.  They claim that they just want to limit the market only to those models that provide better energy efficiency in order to save costs and cut down on emissions.  The Orange County Register notes that the annual savings in energy costs between comparable plasma and LCD models amounts to a grand total of $30 per year.

Buried farther in their FAQ on this action, though, readers can find out what their intent really is, emphasis mine:

Who is supporting these proposals?

The Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), the LCD Manufacturers Association, television component manufacturers such as 3M and Agoura; television manufacturer Vizio, and all three major California electric utility companies (Pacific Gas & Electric, San Diego Gas & Electric, and Southern California Edison) endorse the proposed regulations. Many well-known retailers including Wal*Mart, Sears, Costco, Sam’s Club, and Frys have all agreed to emphasize selling energy efficient TVs. Additionally, a recent survey showed California households overwhelmingly (89%) want their next television to be more energy efficient.

In other words, it’s a protection racket for LCD manufacturers.  They want the state to intervene in the market, as plasma currently undercuts the price for LCDs.  Eventually, LCDs will win this format war anyway, as plasmas have more propensity for burn-in and don’t last as long as LCDs.  However, consumers should make that decision, not the state.

OC Register reporter Brian Joseph notes that the commission denies that they’re trying to limit the size of televisions in general, but …

Gottlieb insisted that the regulations wouldn’t eliminate big screens from California stores. But the commission’s own draft report says TV energy use is “proportional to the screen size.” And there’s no doubt the regulations will limit energy use.

So if you’re in the market for big screen TV, now might be the time to buy. The regulations are expected to be approved this summer.

And what will happen when the regulations go into effect?  California consumers will buy their TVs from on-line retailers out of state, which will force electronics retailers to close, jobs to disappear, and tax revenues to drop.  The economy will continue to decline, budgets will continue to show shortfalls, and the California legislature will continue to press for more tax increases.  In other words, it will be business as usual for the increasingly anti-business Golden State.