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By Jim Kouri
Posted 1:00 AM Eastern
January 16, 2008

As part of their effort to control energy consumption, government officials in California will soon control thermostats in private homes, condominiums, co-ops and rented apartments

According to a government press release, in an "emergency" officials will have the power to control individual thermostats throughout the state. They will be able to raise or lower temperatures through a radio-controlled device that will be required in new or substantially modified houses and buildings. The goal, according to government officials, is to manage electrical power shortages and prevent blackouts and brownouts during peak usage.

However, many observers -- especially conservatives and libertarians -- see this latest conservation plan as just another example of government intrusion into the private sector.

"Liberals love to say they want government to stay out of the bedroom when it comes to issues such as abortion and homosexuality, but apparently they don't mind if government enters our bedrooms when it comes to heating or cooling our personal space," observes conservative political strategist Michael Baker.

"I would think California's Governor Arnold Schwarzennegger has more important things to do than lower the temperature in my living room," said Baker.


The guidelines for energy consumption and conservation are being promulgated throughout California in a pamphlet being distributed by the California Energy Commission. For more than 30 years the CEC has set the standards for home appliances (water heaters, air conditioners and refrigerators).

According to the CEC, the changes in energy control and consumption would allow utility companies to adjust customers' temperature settings when the price of electricity is seen rising in the state. Customers could override the utilities' suggested temperatures, but in emergencies, the utility providers could override customers' thermostat settings.

"You realize there are times -- very rarely, once every few years -- when you would be subject to a rotating outage and everything would crash including your computer and traffic lights, and you don't want to do that," Arthur Rosenfeld, a member of the energy commission, said in a press release.

Reducing individual customers' electrical use -- if necessary, involuntarily -- could avoid that, Rosenfeld said. "If you can control rotating outages by letting everyone in the state share the pain," he said, "there's a lot less pain to go around."

While this energy proposal has received little, if any, attention in the state of California, the bloggers and talk radio shows are attempting to alert citizens to this latest government intrusion.

"As goes California, so goes the nation," said one government official. "While Californians are being kept in the dark over this latest example of big government, officials in other states and environmentalists are watching closely to see how the thermostat program works," she said.

There is nothing new about the proposed radio-controlled thermostat. Pacific Gas and Electric in California has a test program in place that allows customers to volunteer to have their air-conditioning equipment connected to a radio-controlled device. The goal is to reduce consumption when electricity rates are at their peak.

However, the fact that a government agency plans to mandate its control over privately owned thermostats in order to override a home or building owner's heating and cooling desires is angering citizens who are discovering what's being done in the name of conservation.

"What is this? Big Brother controlling our lives even down to what temperatures we set in our homes? What's next? Water rationing?" complained one Californian contacted by

"Wait until people in California realize that the government wants to control the energy they are paying for and government workers will be controlling thermostats Californians pay for," said a Los Angeles resident.

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Another California resident predicts "In the future they will create water shortages, then offer the solution to monitor water consumption. Next will come 'created' food shortages, then their solution will be food rationing, just as they did with electricity shortages. And now their solution is controlling your thermostats. First, create the problem, offer the solution, then they have the desired outcome. See how easy it is?"

Final approval on this latest energy plan is due in February.

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Because of that, the county was hit particularly hard after the 1994 Northwest Forest Plan drastically cut logging on federal lands. Most of the areaís mills closed permanently, which ended the regionís primary source of family-wage jobs.