Plasma screen TVs: The next environmental threat?

August 12, 2009
By Amy Littlefield
LA Times

We've heard that television rots brains, but have you ever thought about what TV-watching does to the environment?

Americans are buying newer, flatter models in droves. And in California, television use -- including DVD players, DVRs and cable boxes -- accounts for 10% of a home’s energy consumption, according to the California Energy Commission. .

The commission, which is often first in the nation to set product standards, is expected to release minimum efficiency rules for televisions sold in the state in the next few weeks. The standards would be expected to decrease TV energy use by 30%-50% and save Californians almost $1 billion in electricity bills once they are fully implemented.

Under the new rules, limits would be based on the size of the television so "consumers will always have the freedom to buy any size or style TV they like," according to the commission. Hundreds of flat-screen models manufactured by major companies such as Vizio already meet requirements.

"These TVs use off-the-shelf technology and are produced by all the leading manufacturers including Samsung, Sony, Panasonic, Vizio, and Sharp, as well as value brands such as Sylvania and Insignia," according to a fact sheet provided by the Natural Resources Defense Council, which has thrown its support behind the measure.

But the Consumer Electronics Assn., a coalition of industry interests, has objected to the standard, which they say would lead to job losses, lower tax revenues and "ban" certain TV models.

"No one's banning anything," said Adam Gottlieb, a spokesman for the energy commission. "We're providing consumers with the most energy-efficient televisions available."

"The energy commission has a 30-plus-year track record of saving California consumers money, of putting forward energy-efficient, cost-effective standards that range from lighting and air conditioning to refrigerators," said Gottlieb. "In the time that we've been doing this, California businesses and families have saved $56 billion."

Californians buy 4 million televisions each year, according to the energy commission.