That Weird California Computer Ban Isn’t What It Appears to Be. It’s Dumber.

Did you know that California a leader in technology and computer science has BANNED certain computers?

“Here’s what’s happening: The California Energy Commission has implemented standards that strive to reduce the amount of energy computer systems use while idle or sleeping. In 2016, the state determined that computers and monitors account for 3 percent of residential energy and 7 percent of commercial energy use. That may not seem like a lot, but nevertheless the California has mandated new tech standards to reduce consumption. The other states involved have agreements to align themselves with California’s standards.

These rules are being phased in slowly over five years. On July 1, the standards for desktop computers came into effect. These regulations limit how much energy a machine can use while idling or sleeping, not during overall use. The computers that Dell stopped shipping to these states aren’t in compliance.

Now you know why responsible firms are fleeing California.  Want a good computer—buy it out of State and ship it here.

That Weird California Computer Ban Isn’t What It Appears to Be. It’s Dumber.

An attempt to reduce idle electricity consumption actually incentivizes selling more powerful equipment.

Scott Shackford, Reason,   8/2/21   

Of all the states in the country, California has the most jobs in the video game industry, with more than 200,000 people either employed directly by game companies or working in supporting services. Washington state is second, with close to 50,000 jobs. Games contribute billions to the economies of both states.

So it would be profoundly stupid and self-destructive for California and Washington to make it harder for their residents to buy computers where they can play such games. Yet Dell just stopped the shipment of certain Alienware gaming PCs to California, Colorado, Hawaii, Oregon, Vermont, and Washington because of certain California Energy Commission regulations.

The California regulations aren’t quite as oppressive or wide-reaching as some news stories might make them appear, but they’re still pretty dumb. They have unintentionally created an incentive to use more power—the opposite of their intended effect—and they highlight some of the problems you see when a state is not creating or importing enough energy to serve its citizens.

Here’s what’s happening: The California Energy Commission has implemented standards that strive to reduce the amount of energy computer systems use while idle or sleeping. In 2016, the state determined that computers and monitors account for 3 percent of residential energy and 7 percent of commercial energy use. That may not seem like a lot, but nevertheless the California has mandated new tech standards to reduce consumption. The other states involved have agreements to align themselves with California’s standards.

These rules are being phased in slowly over five years. On July 1, the standards for desktop computers came into effect. These regulations limit how much energy a machine can use while idling or sleeping, not during overall use. The computers that Dell stopped shipping to these states aren’t in compliance.

Other computers, however, are in compliance. Under these regulations, the amount of power consumption budget your PC is permitted is based on how expandable your system is. The more you are able to upgrade your computer—through graphics cards, additional storage or memory, etc.—the more energy you’re allowed to consume.

There is a certain logic to this: More powerful computers typically need more electricity to operate. But since the smaller, simpler computers hit their energy consumption limits more easily than expanded computers do, the rules are actually encouraging people to get bigger computers that consume more electricity.

Jason Langevin of the computer tech YouTube channel JayzTwoCents posted a helpful explainer making it clear to hardcore gamers that their fancy home-built rigs are not in any danger. Or at least they aren’t at the moment. What happens when these regulations fail to reduce energy consumption? Will they start targeting other computer components that in time, actually will attempt to restrict how powerful the PCs may be that Californians are permitted to purchase? (Langevin also goes on a bit of a rant about how much work it took for him to find the details—the California Energy Commission’s outdated website gave him a 404 error when he tried to view the relevant regulations. The Register has a link embedded to a PDF download, which was the only way I was able to read through the regs myself.)

So the good-ish news is that the regulations don’t ban gaming PCs, and thus aren’t as impactful as they might have seemed at first. But unless the state starts getting really serious about building more power capacity we’re likely to see stricter computer regulations down the line. And how serious is California about building power capacity Gov. Gavin Newsom just declared an emergency because the heat and drought are putting so much pressure on the state’s energy grid, and his declaration fails to use the word “nuclear” even once.

About Stephen Frank

Stephen Frank is the publisher and editor of California Political News and Views. He speaks all over California and appears as a guest on several radio shows each week. He has also served as a guest host on radio talk shows. He is a fulltime political consultant.

Comments

  1. Karmamole says

    Beat part of all of this is that they are rapidly pushing for everyone to use electric cars, which drawn much more power when charging than a computer. We will see just how well the grid holds up if their push to ban gas powered vehicles (and eventually ban or increase price of gas and diesel to unaffordable amounts) continues.
    My last 6 months in CA we had long term and frequent power outages (lived in rural forest town and SCE was just shutting power down to us for days on end if it was windy or dry) and many in the community had to live off of gas powered generators.
    What is going to happen – I am not psychic, but have seen how CA works- is that they are going to add extreme levels of draw via electric cars to the grid, ban or over tax gas/diesel/propane, and leave residents without power in third world conditions. Gov and corp leaders in the state will, of course, have their own private solar systems with expensive battery banks, be able to afford fuels and probably have a residence or two outside of the state to fall back to.
    They will then blame their shortsighted failures that leads to suffering on climate change, capitalism, rural communities and suburbs. “If it wasn’t for the people outside the cities driving x amount more and not using public transportation…” “Climate change has left us without power, we need to restrict more y and z!” “Businesses (always small ones mind you) use more power than the average household, they need to be taxed at a higher percentage to fund more green energy production…” On and on.

  2. Computers, cars or, any decision the consumer makes regarding consumer products used ,is a decision for the consumer, not the government. The free market will decide.

    • Let’s not increase rainfall using the drones they are using in Dubai and increase energy output through dams, let’s just restrict .. control.. suppress.. Governor, you are a Satanic Pig .. Ambassador Mount

  3. Instead of electricity rationing, shortages and “Alternatives” – How about Energy Abundance? So much energy that we need and as much as we want! The Infrastructure Bill gives us NO new energy from Nuclear sources in small to midsize reactors.

    The Nation with the most abundant energy production and use will always be the most powerful. Our military will not run on windmills. Overwhelming victory requires unlimited energy resources.

    The folks who build electric cars know that there will not be enough energy to power them. The folks driving electric cars do not get it that most electricity comes from burning fossil fuels.

    I am expected to turn off my computer and air conditioner so some one else can drive around in their Tesla looking for a place to plug it in.

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