- The Washington Times - Tuesday, January 15, 2008

In their zeal to impose their vision of climate-controlled utopia, California bureaucrats are expected to grant themselves the power to control thermostats inside the homes of Golden State residents.

Press reports indicated the California Energy Commission is likely to approve the authority next month, the rationale being that the government knows best about preventing power outages during times of extreme weather and bureaucrats should have the option of setting household temperatures and imposing rolling power blackouts.

Arthur Rosenfeld, a member of the commission, explained it this way to the New York Times: “If you can control rotating outages by letting everyone in the state share the pain, there’s a lot less pain to go around.”

In other words: if a customer is hurting, that means his neighbor should suffer, too. Equal misery for everyone.

While standardized measurements and indicators are needed to ensure the safety and functionality of everything from water heaters to refrigerators and air conditioners, these standards are meant to regulate a product’s manufacturing, not its use. Government has long tried to regulate human behavior, proposing bans on everything from smoking to trans fats. But people — from a mother whose child is suffering from chills to an insomniac who sleeps better where it’s cool — don’t need Big Brother looking over their shoulder.

The proposed rule would let utility companies override customers’ preset temperatures when the price of electricity is on the rise by using technology known as programmable communicating thermostat (PCT). New homes and remodeling projects done on existing homes would have to include PCT in 2009. Customers could override the utility companies’ preset temperatures, however, many thermostats are complicated to work with and involve a series of programming and reprogramming to function correctly. Also, during government-declared emergencies, utility companies could override customers’ needs and impose their own temperatures, hot or cold.

While the proposed PCT mandate is perhaps modest in the eyes of some, it is the latest in a troubling trend to force the will of bureaucrats upon the citizenry. Also, this move has potential public-health consequences.

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