Powered by a wave of public outrage that transcended party lines, California citizens have forced regulators at the California Energy Commission to abandon plans to control thermostat settings in private homes.
Controlling Private Homes
The Energy Commission had attempted to slip the thermostat provision into Title 24, a 236-page set of rules covering energy efficiency mandates on building construction.
Under the proposal, every new home and every renovated heating and air conditioning system would be required by law to include an FM receiver that would allow the Energy Commission to reset the thermostat to whatever temperature the agency desired during times of peak usage.
The Energy Commission specified the receiver be non-removable and tamper-proof.
Outrage Near Universal
When word of the proposal leaked out in early January, public outcry was immediate and nearly universal. The Energy Commission “received so many calls and emails about this that they are making this proposal strictly voluntary,” reported KBAK-TV in Bakersfield on January 14.
Even so, the outcry continued, reaching beyond California’s borders.
“If … government-controlled thermostats are acceptable, why not the rationing of gas?” asked a January 15 Denver Post house editorial. “Why not ‘manage’ the times Americans vacation abroad? Why not dictate how many miles a person can live from his or her job? Why not decree that we all use public transportation? Why not mandate that businesses use teleconferencing instead of attending those conventions in the Bahamas or Las Vegas? Why are you living in such a large house? Do you really need all that space?”
No Threat to Wealthy
“The threat of turning off peoples’ air conditioning is another in the ‘just say no’ approach to energy policy in California–no to new sources, no to reasonable prices, no to consumer choice, and no to reliable service,” said Tom Tanton, a fellow at the San Francisco-based Pacific Research Institute.
“Instead of giving utilities the power to control demand, why not give them the power to increase supply and delivery?” Tanton asked.
“The discomforts of compliance will fall unevenly across the state,” columnist Joseph Somsel, a California resident, noted in the Internet magazine American Thinker. “Come the next heat wave, the elites might be comfortably lolling in La Jolla’s ocean breezes or basking in Berkeley by the Bay, while the Central Valley’s poor peons are baking in Bakersfield and frying in Fresno. California’s coastal climate, where the elites live, seldom requires air conditioning.”
‘I’ll Be Back’
Californians’ success in fighting back against the regulation, while encouraging, may not end the matter, said Tanton.
“In a state governed by the Terminator, I’m concerned that plans to control thermostats will ‘be back’ and that this is only a temporary reprieve,” Tanton said.
“Just like the villainous cyborg in the Terminator movies, even though the thermostat control proposal has been broken into hundreds of little quicksilver pieces, it is sure to coalesce in the future unless consumers demand that energy policy directions change,” said Tanton. “That change has to include realistic electricity supply options such as coal, nuclear, and natural gas.”
James M. Taylor ([email protected]) is a senior fellow of The Heartland Institute and managing editor of Environment & Climate News.