Walter E. Williams

Last December, President Bush signed an energy bill that will ban the sale of Edison's incandescent bulb, starting with the 100-watt bulb in 2012 and ending with the 40-watt bulb by 2014. You say, "Hey, Williams, what's wrong with saving energy, reducing our carbon footprint and stopping global warming?" Before you get too enthused over governmental energy-saving efforts, you might ponder what's down the road.

The California Energy Commission has recently proposed amendments to its standards for energy efficiency (www.energy.ca.gov/2007publications/CEC-400-2007-017/CEC-400-2007-017-45DAY.PDF). These standards include a requirement that any new or modified heating or air conditioning system must include a programmable communicating thermostat (PCT) whose settings can be remotely controlled by government authorities. A thermostat czar, sitting in Sacramento, would be empowered to remotely reduce the heating or cooling of your house during what he deems as an "emergency event."

Say you disagree with the czar's temperature setting for your house, the California Energy Commission is one step ahead of you with the provision: "The PCT shall not allow customer changes to thermostat settings during emergency events." In other words, the thermostat must be configured in a way that doesn't allow the customer to override the czar's decision.

Some people might agree with this level of government control over their lives, but if these amendments become law, you can safely bet there are other intrusive energy-saving proposals waiting in the wing. For now California's energy Nazis are simply testing how much intrusiveness Californians will peaceably accept. I can easily imagine California's Energy Commission requiring remotely controlled main circuit breaker boxes that control all of the electricity coming into your house. That would enable the energy czar to better manage your electricity use.

Say you're preparing a big dinner. The energy czar might decide that you don't need so much heat in the rest of the house. Or, preparing a big dinner might mean the energy czar would turn off the energy to your washing machine and dryer while the electric stove is on.


Walter E. Williams

Dr. Williams serves on the faculty of George Mason University as John M. Olin Distinguished Professor of Economics and is the author of 'Race and Economics: How Much Can Be Blamed on Discrimination?' and 'Up from the Projects: An Autobiography.'
 
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