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Controlling Your Temperature:

The California Energy Commission recently proposed including government-controlled thermostats in new energy efficiency standards for new buildings in the state.

Customers could not override the thermostats during "emergency events," according to the proposal, part of a 236-page revision to building standards. The document is scheduled to be considered by the California Energy Commission, a state agency, on Jan. 30.

The description does not provide any exception for health or safety concerns. It also does not define what are "emergency events."

During heat waves, customers crank up the air conditioning, putting severe strains on the state's power supply. By giving utilities the power to automatically adjust power demand by reducing air conditioning, the hope is that more severe interruptions, such as rolling blackouts, can be avoided.

The specific proposal can be found on pages 63-64 of this CEC document.

As one might expect, the prospect that government officials could control home thermostats was quite controversial, and the California Energy Commission has backtracked . . . a little.

As initially proposed, these programmable thermostats would have deferred in emergencies to a radio signal from utilities, wresting control from customers.

After public protests, Chandler said the commission staff has suggested letting customers choose whether to accept the emergency control.

The staff will make the recommendation at the energy commission's Jan. 30 meeting in Sacramento. The changed proposal would be taken up at a later date.

"The consumer or customer can override the emergency control," with the change, Chandler said.

The radio system used by the utilities would notify customers of an energy emergency. If the customer did nothing, utilities could reset the thermostat to a higher temperature, but no higher than 88 degrees.

However, the thermostat will still include a radio control component that utilities could use with consumers' consent. That component will be a mandatory part of the thermostat, which can't be removed by the consumer.

Critics say they fear that requiring new homes to include a radio-controlled thermostat will make it easier to enforce mandatory controls later.

A more sensible way of disciplining household energy use would be through prices. In the marketplace, increased demand will produce higher prices. Adopting peak-load pricing or even surcharges would provide market signals to consumers and provide an incentive to reduce energy use during an "energy emergency," but it would leave consumers in control of their own energy use.

Vinnie (mail):
How is 10 million people holding a blow dryer on their thermostat going to save energy?
1.13.2008 11:31am
Tony Tutins (mail):
Although this seems outrageous, while Enron and Reliant controlled California's electricity supply we were treated to rolling blackouts. A little less electricity for everyone can sound more palatable than no electricity for tens of thousands of customers. The better answer is to provide more electricity. This would be easier if Californians would give up their irrational fears of nuclear power. During the shock waves of deregulation, the Diablo Canyon nuke plant was the cheapest source of electricity.
1.13.2008 11:39am
Baronger (mail) (www):
How is 10 million people holding a blow dryer on their thermostat going to save energy?



We can close comments now we have a winner. :)
1.13.2008 11:39am
Fub:
However, the thermostat will still include a radio control component that utilities could use with consumers' consent. That component will be a mandatory part of the thermostat, which can't be removed by the consumer.
So possession of diag cutters and soldering iron will now create an irrebuttable presumption of felonious interference with a common self-righteous bureaucrat nuisance?
1.13.2008 11:46am
Registered guy:

Diablo Canyon nuke plant was the cheapest source of electricity.


Really? And who is going to pay for storage at Yucca in the next 400 million years?
1.13.2008 11:51am
donaldk2 (mail):
If it were scrupulously controlled, to be used only when an outage was imminent, it would be a good thing.

But you can bet that would not be the case.
1.13.2008 11:53am
CiarandDenlane (mail):
I generally agree that pricing energy use is a good way to encourage conservation. We would be a lot better off if the pump price of gasoline were as high as the total costs of gasoline use. However, I wonder whether many of us are likely to set, or reset, the thermostat on a frequent basis based on price changes. Many of us don't even pay much attention to where the thermostat is set. It's not like we have to feed a quarter into the meter to push the dial up or down a degree or two. And, like a lot of people, I live in an apartment, don't pay separate utilities, and won't see the cost of energy profligacy (to which I am, in any event, only a minor contributer) until the next time the landlord increases the rent, which it will do with or without increased energy costs as an excuse.

To be honest, I can look on this with some equanimity since my ox isn't gored. Not only is there the whole renter thing, but I generally don't even notice indoor temperatures unless they are very extreme. (I went over before posting to see where I had set my thermostats and found out that I still had the heat set to "off" where, I guess, it's been so far this clement mid-Atlantic winter. Apparently I'm fine with letting my neighbors pick the temperature that bleeds through the walls, ceiling, and floors into my apartment. I'd be just as insouciant about having it be the landlord or the government that did the job instead.) Pricing has zero effect on what I do (actually, what I usually forget to bother to do) with the thermostat.
1.13.2008 11:57am
CiarandDenlane (mail):
PS: by relying on heat bleeding over from my neighbors' apartments, I'm not stealing their money by making them crank up the heat higher in order to offset the heat loss through the walls to my apartment. If we each paid utilities separately that would be unfair. But as I indicated, none of us are charged separately for utilities. They get the temperature they want, and I get whatever results from their decisions (though, now that this subject has me uncharacteristically paying attention to the temperature, I'm going to crack open a window).
1.13.2008 12:04pm
Kristian (mail) (www):

We would be a lot better off if the pump price of gasoline were as high as the total costs of gasoline use.

Well, there is a significant question regarding the pricing of externalities.

Even so, a very large % of the pump cost of gasoline is taxes (state and federal). So, deferring the question of externality costs, the price of gasline is already higher than the total costs of gasline use.
1.13.2008 12:06pm
CiarandDenlane (mail):
Kristian: I agree. My statement was based on my view of the question you deferred, the externalities, which are imo very high in the case of gasoline. They are also not inconsiderable, though probably not as high, in the case of heating and A/C (higher externalities than heating?). Those are good reasons to encourage energy efficiency (and now I'll put aside a question, viz., whether price signals will work or something more heavy handed like California proposed is needed to provide that encouragement (well, in the latter case, it would be more than just encouragement)).
1.13.2008 12:18pm
Beran Panasper:
I wonder whether many of us are likely to set, or reset, the thermostat on a frequent basis based on price changes.

My utility bill is exactly the reason I installed a programmable thermostat that automatically resets the temperature while I'm at work or asleep. (Also the reason I sealed air leaks in my doors and windows, and got blown-in insulation in the attic.) So yeah, I notice the price of energy, and it affects my behavior.
1.13.2008 12:33pm
A. Zarkov (mail):
This will give rise to a cottage industry on defeating the thermostat, and giving control back to the homeowner. This idea is a public relations disaster as it evokes images of the in-home monitors in Orwell's 1984.
1.13.2008 12:57pm
E A (mail):
Water utilities constantly vary water pressure, and water intake quality constantly varies as well. US law provides no protection to consumers that water is more than "potable", either on pressure or quality. Electric utilities constantly vary voltage. Sewer utilities constantly vary the quality of their wastewater treatment and discharge to surface waters.

In other words, US utilities are under no legal code, fed or state, compulsion to provide either constancy, nor quality.

They can and do, for example, conduct rolling brownouts. This has the undesirable effect of resetting electronic equipment which can have a health and life safety effect.

They can and do conduct blackout load shedding, which can have an even greater health and life safety effect, unless you happen to live on the dedicated line to the hospital.

A wireless meter choke wouldn't work for the reasons above. Your A/C kicks on, the choke cuts power, everything resets.

The thermostat choke wouldn't work for a different reason.
The cut-off between public and private occurs at the meter.
If the public utility now extends into your thermostat, then the public utilities become responsible for your wiring too, and then, responsible for fires and mishaps caused by it.

Ain't gonna happen. The only option is a wireless flag that signals everyone's thermostat read-out of a low power event. People being people would disable the warning or ignore it.

Tiered pricing is proven that it *absolutely doesn't work*.

Tax credits. Pure and simple. As long as the utility bill is in your name, divide kWh by dependents living with you, and apply a tax credit based on that yearly rollup.

Home Depot and Lowe's energy installers would be jumping!
1.13.2008 1:00pm
riptide:
The ultimate question is, how many people will bother to defeat these thermostats? As long as it's only a few, it will still prevent or delay the need for the more disruptive rolling blackouts. Those who are displeased with this result can either buy thermostats from out of state, or move out of state themselves.
1.13.2008 1:03pm
WHOI Jacket:
Nothing 5 min with a soldering iron can't fix.
1.13.2008 1:12pm
Freddy Hill:
The problem with peak load pricing and surcharges is that it's very difficult for the consumer to measure real-time and turn off the AC before it's too late.

On the other hand I don't understand why I need to go outside to check my day-to-day electrical usage while the utility company can get that information via wireless. Wouldn't it be better to have a wifi transmitter in the meter that allows me to capture and analyze that information in my pc, while at the same time getting real-time tariff information from the supplier via the net? I could even compare different electricity suppliers to see if their savings claims meet the test of the real world.

Or maybe this already exists? Anybody knows?
1.13.2008 1:15pm
JBL:
Gee, if compliance is voluntary, how about just sending out a standard AM/FM/TV/Road Sign broadcast requesting people to make the adjustment? It would be cheap and utterly uncontroversial. It would require zero new equipment and work well in conjunction with any sensible pricing scheme.

Of course, it wouldn't require much in the way of legislation or bureaucracy, so a certain number of legislators and bureaucrats will need to find other things to do, which is likely to have various externalities, but that seems like a reasonable risk.
1.13.2008 1:22pm
NicholasV (mail) (www):
I'm not yet convinced that solar power is a particularly viable source of electricity, because it's so variable. But this seems like the type of situation where solar furnaces or, if worthwhile, panels could really help. It won't always be sunny during a heat wave, but I bet there will be a pretty good correlation. Then the power peaks will coincide with at least some of the peak demand, reducing the worry about the need for rolling blackouts.

Failing that, surely it's possible to build some form of additional power generation (gas turbines, whatever) for use only during these emergency periods to provide the extra power, rather than resort to rationing.

As for nuclear.. if people are so worried about waste disposal (I seriously doubt the waste will be terribly dangerous after 100,000 years let alone 400 million - remember, the more radioactive something is the faster it decays), why not set up breeder reactors and recycle almost all of it? Oh, that's right, there were plans for that but the US Federal Government shut it down. Great. Thanks, Mr. Carter.
1.13.2008 1:32pm
Thomas_Holsinger:
It's the power. They like the power.
1.13.2008 1:45pm
UW2L:
The people most at risk during heat waves, as far as I can tell, are the elderly. Elderly people tend to be on fixed incomes. So, surcharges and peak-use fees would seem to pose a danger to the most vulnerable portion of the population: if they can't afford to pay the higher rates or are disincentivized from doing so, wouldn't the "let the market sort it out" approach lead to more senior citizen deaths during heat waves?

Sorry, I was raised in California and have never quite managed to fully clear the state's poisonous brand of bleeding-heart politics from my head to make room for a full understanding of how price caps hurt everyone by making resources wholly unavailable whereas market forces mean only a few people die because they can't cool their houses/afford the gas to evacuate ahead of Katrina/etc. and that's somehow preferable.

What a ridiculous plan, though. Where's Mr. Tuttle from Brazil when you need him?
1.13.2008 1:54pm
Randy R. (mail):
"A more sensible way of disciplining household energy use would be through prices"

Sure, of course. This way poor people, and elderly on fixed incomes can fry, while rich and middle class people can just adjust the levels to whatever comfort level they prefer.

If they're poor, it's their own damn fault anyway, so let'em die in their beds. It's what made America great!
1.13.2008 2:18pm
Elliot123 (mail):
In winter my thermostat is programmed to:
11pm 62 degrees
530am 70 degrees
800am 60 degrees
430pm 68 degrees

Works like a charm and took 5 minutes to set up. I set it up once and let it go. Another program automatically takes over on weekends. If price throughout the day was available, I'd program that into the system, too.

Consider a device that plugged into the wall, and then you plugged the AC into it. If the price of electricity was transmitted through the electric wires, it could turn the AC on and off as a function of price.

Another option is price transmission over the internet. The home network could then control on/off boxes plugged into wall sockets. Give people the info and technology, and they will come up with all kinds of ways to save money without any personal cost. All this would reduce demand on the grid as a function of price, and would reduce the need for an automatic shutoff of Granny's AC in August.
1.13.2008 2:39pm
JohnS:

if they can't afford to pay the higher rates or are disincentivized from doing so, wouldn't the "let the market sort it out" approach lead to more senior citizen deaths during heat waves?

Yes it might. What administrative nightmare must we invoke to provide a data base of user health conditions so that selected thermostats of vulnerable customers might be exempted from a general command?

My California PG&E bill includes information on which 'block' of power includes me, and various sources tell me when my block will be subject to blackout. Since that happens seldom, I'd certainly prefer that coarse a resolution, presumably somewhat related to actual usage, to giving some kind of command authority to a new administration. It's true the current 'rolling blackout' capability might also be inaptly or maliciously applied, but it does not seem likely to be done so on some kind of government initiative. Perhaps that indicates I have an excessive trust in PG&E; so be it.
1.13.2008 2:42pm
Tony Tutins (mail):


Diablo Canyon nuke plant was the cheapest source of electricity.

Really? And who is going to pay for storage at Yucca in the next 400 million years?

Considering the French were able to figure out nuclear waste storage, how hard can it be? They don't even have desert waste areas to stash waste in.
1.13.2008 3:15pm
ras (mail):
A more sensible way of disciplining household energy use would be through prices. In the marketplace, increased demand will produce higher prices.

You're presuming that the bureaucrats want and expect a marketplace to even exist. They don't.
1.13.2008 4:13pm
Doc Rampage (mail) (www):
The advantage of using price to regulate usage is that it also leads to solutions. First, you would need electronic notification of the current price. This could be done through the electrical wires themselves. Then if the price were enough higher during peak usage, people would buy programmable thermostats to automatically save energy when it was too expensive.

They would also start buying electric storage devices to store electricity during the cheap times and would put up windmills and solar panels. These devices would not only reduce peak load, they could send power back to the grid when the price gets high enough. We could greatly reduce our energy independence with no government grants or coercion.

And enough with this pathetic whining about the poor. We aren't talking about pricing energy out of anyone's reach, just making it more expensive. So the poor might have to cut back on the fast food and put off buying that new big-screen entertainment system for a few months. Or they could just let the house get a little hotter and live in the same conditions that the whole freaking world lived in just a hundred years ago.
1.13.2008 4:22pm
nevins (mail):
Thermostats, no matter how sophisticated, operate the furnace/AC with a mere 4 wires. One is common; touch it to one wire and just the fan runs, another turns on heat, and the last turns on AC. The HVAC unit should be smart enough that should both the heat and AC wires be attached to the common wire that it would not run both. Hotwiring your AC or having an emergency backup $20 thermostat is a 10 minute job.
1.13.2008 4:26pm
nevins (mail):

Even so, a very large % of the pump cost of gasoline is taxes (state and federal). So, deferring the question of externality costs, the price of gasline is already higher than the total costs of gasline use.

Kristian, I don't think so. Most of the cost of gasoline is the oil in it. It is remarkably cheap considering the processing and handling required.
Oil is in the $90 range and recently brushed 100. At 42 US gallons per barrel that's about $2.20 per gallon just to buy the raw material; not including getting the stuff to a US refinery. Here in flyover land it's selling for under $2.80. Federal gas tax is 18.4 cents per gallon and state taxes range from 8 to 35 cents.
I doubt that gas taxes are sufficient to pay for the costs of the road and highway infrastructure that the use of gasoline requires.

(any petrolium engineers here who can more accurately guess the raw material cost of gasoline? given that it is about the most refined component from crude it has got to cost at least the BTU equivalent of a gallon of crude)
1.13.2008 4:42pm
Randy R. (mail):
Doc: "And enough with this pathetic whining about the poor. We aren't talking about pricing energy out of anyone's reach, just making it more expensive."

I see. So when all those elderly people die every year in the heat waves that we have each summer, they should just buck up and do without food or medicine to stay alive, right?

"So the poor might have to cut back on the fast food and put off buying that new big-screen entertainment system for a few months."

You forgot the welfare queen who buys steaks.

"Or they could just let the house get a little hotter and live in the same conditions that the whole freaking world lived in just a hundred years ago"

And you can't because you are so special? Oh that's right, sacrifice is for OTHER people to make, not you.
1.13.2008 5:35pm
Cro (mail):
Uh, or they could just build more power plants. All this shared-sacrifice stuff is for the birds. I don't understand why the richest and most populous state in the union can't seem to generate enough power. Places like Arizona, with more heat and fewer people, somehow manage.

If people will pay for the power, why aren't the utilites simply giving it to them and pocketing the money? What's going on in California that's totally subverted the profit motive?
1.13.2008 5:53pm
tvk:
Jonathan,

Actually, the economics here are somewhat questionable. Adjustment through prices works best when prices can affect long term demand and supply. If there are not enough widgets, raise the price so people will demand fewer widgets and there are more factories to build widgets.

Here, you are talking short term price spikes with little effect on long term demand or supply. As you say, these price spikes can be successful in curbing even temporary demand (if you raise prices enough), but they do significant harm as well. First, by increasing price volitility you decrease economic stability, which tends to decrease both consumer confidence and investment. Second, you will get complaints of "price gouging," and "heat profiteering" no different from other sudden and short-term surges in demand such as drought (water), crop failure (food), and war (everything). Third, you are completely ignoring the distributive consequences of using price to regulate demand of an essential good when there is no effect on supply. I realize your response may be that tax-and-redistribute is better than rationing, but taxes can only be raised so far. Which is why every government rations food and other essentials in war rather than tax and redistribute (in war, we might have just enough food for everyone, but if we don't ration the rich will eat like kings and the poor will starve unless we raise taxes enormously).
1.13.2008 6:03pm
markm (mail):
Tiered pricing is proven that it *absolutely doesn't work*.

It works in Germany. They buy washer-driers with timers, and set the timers to start the machine after midnight when electric loads and prices are lowest.

It is more difficult to react to a price scale that varies day by day than to one that varies on a set schedule, but it just requires a little more use of existing technology. You need a control panel somewhere where you can go in and set price points and pick how your house systems react to prices crossing them. You can have it adjust the thermostat, cut off the hot tub heater, or advise you to turn off the home theater and leave the dishes and laundry until later. If the power companies really want to get these remote controls into the home, what they should do is to offer such controls on an internet site - and then, to make it work, you've got to put in their radio-controlled thermostat...
1.13.2008 6:08pm
Oren:
Places like Arizona, with more heat and fewer people, somehow manage.
Note the fewer people part - Arizona is a lot less population dense the Cal and so is considerably easer to power. Also, humidity has a huge effect on A/C efficiency - it's almost twice as expensive to cool 80F,80% than it is to cool 100F,0%.

The best solution, IMO, would be to provide everyone (and certainly every new construction) with "Kill A Watt" (too lazy to link, search amazon) devices that are dynamically updated to reflect the latest price of electricity. When people see that their A/C unit is costing $1/hour (2500W @ .40/KWH - a high but not reasonable price during peak times). In fact, I would love such a device on my thermostat since my heating-oil bill is always totally random.

Moreover, I think that a lot of the solution will lie in the development of efficient ultra-capacitors to solve the peak/mean capacity problem (in brief, you have to build infrastructure to handle peak load but only get paid for mean load which is much lower).
1.13.2008 6:34pm
Oren:
If the power companies really want to get these remote controls into the home, what they should do is to offer such controls on an internet site - and then, to make it work, you've got to put in their radio-controlled thermostat...
If such a device cut the peak load by even a fraction of a percent it would be well worth the utility's while.
1.13.2008 6:35pm
K Parker (mail):
nevins,
I doubt that gas taxes are sufficient to pay for the costs of the road and highway infrastructure that the use of gasoline requires.
On what evidence do you base your doubt?
1.13.2008 7:03pm
Tony Tutins (mail):
Oil is in the $90 range and recently brushed 100. At 42 US gallons per barrel that's about $2.20 per gallon just to buy the raw material;

Part of the increased price of oil reflects the sagging U.S. dollar: Since Bush's inauguration the euro has soared from 85 cents to $1.43

I doubt that gas taxes are sufficient to pay for the costs of the road and highway infrastructure that the use of gasoline requires.

Why should they be? Highway infrastructure benefits all of us. Even if you never drove, you'd still want your mail and UPS delivered to your house. Plus you'd probably like to be able to buy food and clothing instead of growing/weaving/knitting your own. As the Teamsters used to say, "If you got it, a truck brought it." And while trucks pay fuel tax, government vehicles like transit buses do not , nor do fire and police departments or the postal service.
1.13.2008 7:32pm
Toby:
Sceptics that homes can be participants in demand response should read up on the Olympic Penninsula Project. Simple prototype of meter showing current cost, yesterday's total cost and an additional slidebar (to go along with temperature), this one sliding between "Comfort" and "Economy". Homeowners set their ideal home temperature and how many degrees they were willing to have that temperature move above or below the target.

Many adjusted daily. Some opted not to particpate. 10% shaving off peak load. Better power curve characteristics than central control because not everybody's adjustments hit at the same time.

The barrier to this is not end user willingnes to particpate, not technology, but utility unwillingness because their profits are determined by cost-based rate-of-return regulation. Many of the consumers in the study were retirees, so it was not a techno group. In other words, it is the regulators that prevent a market from developing.

The fact sheet on the GridWise Olympic Peninsula Project.

The final report on the GridWise Olympic Peninsula Project

Also, strange as it may seem, Utilities are in business to sell power, not to prevent its use.

A write-up from last May.
1.13.2008 10:40pm
A.C.:
Much here beside the point. Almost anything voluntary is fine for those that volunteer. The question is when the government can override individual preferences. Nothing here is making the case that the proposed thermostats are a good idea.

It actually makes me think of all the crazy people, inevitably from California, who call government offices claiming that some group or other is irradiating them by sending signals to their home appliances. Do we really want to encourage this sort of thing?
1.13.2008 11:04pm
Oren:
Nothing here is making the case that the proposed thermostats are a good idea.
If given the choice, would you honestly prefer that your A/C use be cut 10% or run the 1% risk of being browned out for the day?

It actually makes me think of all the crazy people, inevitably from California, who call government offices claiming that some group or other is irradiating them by sending signals to their home appliances. Do we really want to encourage this sort of thing?
First off, those folks are everywhere. Second off, yes, you are completely right - this sort of thing encourages exactly the wrong sort of thinking.
1.13.2008 11:27pm
hymie (mail):
We already have a voluntary system just like this in place in New York City. I've got one of these thermostats installed, controlling my central air conditioner. I have absolutely no idea if or when ConEd has ever used it to turn off my air conditioner, since my wife and I both work. It was actually kind of funny - the old thermostat had just broken when the offer from the utility arrived, and I gladly traded a little freedom for the convenience and money savings of having them come and replace the thermostat with a new one, for free. It's even accessible over the internet, not that I've ever bothered.

Oh, and as good libertarians, how can you even dream of asking the government to force a power company to supply you with electricity when they don't want to? :-)
1.14.2008 4:00am
Doc Rampage (mail) (www):
Doc: "And enough with this pathetic whining about the poor. We aren't talking about pricing energy out of anyone's reach, just making it more expensive."

I see. So when all those elderly people die every year in the heat waves that we have each summer, they should just buck up and do without food or medicine to stay alive, right?
Er. Did you miss the part where I said we are not talking about pricing energy out of reach? We are talking tradeoffs and it will effect some retired people. If they want it cooler then they can cut back on the Christmas gifts to grandkids or the Sunday afternoon outings to the Golden Coral. Or they can close a room during the summer and not use it. This talk about people dieing or not having food and medicine is a strawman. We are talking about a couple of hundred dollars over the course of a summer, not someone's entire retirement portfolio.
"So the poor might have to cut back on the fast food and put off buying that new big-screen entertainment system for a few months."

You forgot the welfare queen who buys steaks.
The largest diet-related problem for children who live in "poverty" in the US is obesity. There are lots of welfare queens who eat steak, drive a new car and have a multi-thousand dollar entertainment center. There simply is no significant population of genuinely poor people in this country. Poor people are a political figment invented to justify redistribution of income.
"Or they could just let the house get a little hotter and live in the same conditions that the whole freaking world lived in just a hundred years ago"

And you can't because you are so special? Oh that's right, sacrifice is for OTHER people to make, not you.
I grew up in Phoenix in a house with no air conditioning. We had a swamp cooler which is practically useless (due to the humidity) in late July and August when the temperatures are still in the hundreds. It's no big deal. You sit around and don't do much. It's hard to sleep until about two in the morning so you get up late. My retired parents still keep the thermostat at horrifying levels in the summer because my dad is a child of the Depression and goes for the more extreme economic tradeoffs.

It would be nice if we could have political discussions without these chest-beating denunciations of anyone who would ask people to make economic tradeoffs as if having to give up one thing to have something else is a fate too horrible to contemplate.
1.14.2008 4:12am
markm (mail):
Oh, and as good libertarians, how can you even dream of asking the government to force a power company to supply you with electricity when they don't want to? :-)

The government has also given the power company a monopoly on the delivery of power to my house...

the welfare queen who buys steaks.

I don't know any welfare "queens", but over the years I have known several families receiving public assistance including food stamps or the newer debit-card equivalent. Some of them either don't know how to cook and shop effectively, or don't bother. Some do, and eat better for far less. They all get the same food budget per capita - and so I've seen everything from families living on TV dinners and Coca-cola for three weeks and then going hungry at the end of the month, to families filling up their freezer with steaks because their social worker got upset when they didn't use all their food stamps.
1.14.2008 6:15am
Archon (mail):
And I thought the forces of freedom and liberty defeated communism c. 1989...

The funny thing is that the American public has forced the policeman out of the bedroom only for him to take up residence in our living room.
1.14.2008 9:27am
Mary Katherine Day-Petrano (mail):
"The description does not provide any exception for health or safety concern" ----> Expect when Cal. State agency gets this states law passed, for there to be monetary damages Title II Americans With Disabilities Act challenges coming from anyone of the fine ADA law firms there -- e.g., DRA, DREDF, Protection &Advocay. While the ideas of the A-B-C-D- test taker agency beaureacrats may seem okay to them, people who think outside the box know disabled people needing to control the temperatures of their immediate environments cannot be subjected to inhumane conditions that would result in their dropping dead in huge numbers like flies every time there is a heat wave.
1.14.2008 11:49am
Mary Katherine Day-Petrano (mail):
"This idea is a public relations disaster as it evokes images of the in-home monitors in Orwell's 1984" ---->

No doubt, now that you mention it, Americans thermostat settings will likely be included in the FBI's biometric database of the in-building temperatures we are allowed, and if we disobey we are likely to be remotely destroyed via that Verichip RFID implant we are all sure to be required to receive.
1.14.2008 11:55am
Mikeyes (mail):
Unles I missed something, no one has mentioned state control of heating that exists in China where a central heating system is in force in certain parts. Apparently the solution is to set the thermostat to one setting (for untold thousands of dwellings) and only turn it on after a certain date, no matter what the temperature. What could be simpler?
1.14.2008 1:58pm
Tony Tutins (mail):

state control of heating that exists in China

Central heat delivered as a city utility was first proposed by King Albert of Saxony, who found the unheated Dresden cathedral to be too cold. Building Dresden's system took from 1900 till 1928. It was destroyed during the war, rebuilt, then renovated a few years ago. Other systems exist in Hinterkranau and Flensburg, Germany; Basel, Switzerland; and Vienna and Lower Austria in Austria. According to the www.fernwaermewien.at website, utility-delivered heat is comfortable, reliable, and economical. It also wastes less energy, and reduces your carbon footprint. The Lower Austria system includes 271 heaters burning wood and wood scraps, and 9 burning straw.
1.14.2008 3:12pm
Clay B (mail):
If they can make a remotely controlled thermostat (bad idea), surely they can make a thermostat that shows me the current energy price, that I can program to respond accordingly.
1.15.2008 10:34am
Bradley J. Fikes (mail) (www):
I'm a bit late to the party, but thank you for writing about this and for linking to my story. Blogs such as yours seem to give fuller accounts of what's going on, including such information as where to find the actual text of the proposal. The MSM stories tend to be much shallower. I originally saw this story from the blog Patterico, who saw it in the American Thinker.
1.18.2008 10:08am