Sacramento bureaucrats want to dictate what kinds of flat-screen TVs meet their approval. The California Energy Commission is considering limiting how much electricity you can get away with to power your plasma or LCD set. If proposed regulations are adopted, new televisions for sale must limit energy use by one-third by 2011 and nearly by half by 2013. It's for your own good, they say.


In a fascinating fit of Orwellian speak, the commission claims, "[T]he state is not banning any type of TV. Consumers have the freedom to choose any type and size of television that meets the efficiency standard." In other words, buy any kind of TV as long as it's the kind they want you to buy.


If it's electricity usage they want to reduce, why not regulate refrigerators? The answer is they already do, along with air conditioners, lighting and various other appliances. These people would regulate your flashlight if they could get away with it. For your own good, of course.


Plasma televisions are big energy users, and would be most-affected. But the market already is turning away from plasma in favor of slightly less energy-demanding LCD models, the vast majority of which wouldn't meet the proposed standard, either. Television manufacturers gradually are making more energy-efficient models, partly responding to the federal voluntary Energy Star program, but also to meet growing consumer demand.


That's where the matter should be decided. In the marketplace. If consumers demand to save money on rising energy costs, manufacturers will accommodate them. But government insists it knows better. "We want to get rid of energy-guzzling televisions," a commission spokesman proclaimed.


That approach begs the question. The market should be driven by what consumers want, not what some bureaucrat decides they should have. We suspect consumers who pay the electricity bill have a better understanding of what constitutes "energy-guzzling."


We also suspect that if state government forges ahead of all other states and nations by adopting these intrusive rules this summer, retailers online and across the state line will reap the benefit, as California consumers seek models that may not save them $18 a year in electricity, but might cost them a few hundred dollars less to purchase.