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.


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.

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93 responses to “That Weird California Computer Ban Isn't What It Appears to Be. It's Dumber.

  1. This isn’t new. “Efficient” washing machines and dishwashers often have to be run more than once, using more water. Not to mention efficient toilets.

    1. My efficient dishwasher estimates over 4 hours for a full mixed load on the cycle where it somehow determines how dirty the dishes are. (sensor wash)
      I have no idea if it uses more or less water/electricity overall than my old “get the job done in an hour” machine, nor do I really care. Since there was no choice, all machines from all manufacturers had the same nonsense cycles, so surprisingly, I choose the cheapest one.

      1. Sounds like mine. It uses a lot less water, but a lot more electricity.

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    2. “This isn’t new. “Efficient” washing machines and dishwashers often have to be run more than once, using more water. Not to mention efficient toilets.”

      How much electricity is your toilet using nowadays?

      1. I’ve seen some estimates that up to 30% of all energy consumption in California is related to water, so potentially a ton. It needs to be cleaned and moved to where it is used and water is heavy.

        1. He doesn’t get to. He’s just a dumb Pollock.

      2. In CA, water is the more limited resource these days.

        We’re screwed, either way. ;-(

    3. My LG washer has a button labeled “extra water” and another for “extra rinse.”

      Seems to solve the issue. lol.

      1. You’re one of the lucky ones.

  2. 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.

    Fuck them. Build your own PC. It’s not hard. And if you shop around a little, you can cut the cost by about 50%.

    I don’t generally plug websites, but is a great resource for builders.

    1. Oh right, “Build your own youtube” just became “Build your own PC”.


      1. and soon its build your own car and your own house. guess what they are regulated as well.

        1. Soon? You know you can do both of those now, right?

        2. I could actually see a state like California passing a law that requires you to get a permit to build a PC, complete with inspections. Plus permits to change components.

          1. PLEAZE! Don’t give our governor greaseball and any of his cronies any ideas.

            Have you ever looked at CARB proclamations?

      2. Think of it this way – if you build your own high-end computer, you’re undermining CA’s authoritarian government.

        Why do you hate freedom?

        1. California “offers” you “freedom from energy wastage”.

          PLEASE give me freedom from your freedom froms!

          Speaking of which, there’s an old, somewhat obscure libertarianish fiction book out there, I even found it for FREE on the internet!

          1. libertarianish fiction book…found it for FREE


          2. “PLEASE give me freedom from your freedom froms!”

            Texas welcomes you, and hardly EVER has blackouts, and when you do have one, you can just follow your senator and flee the country together.

            1. Get up off of your damn knees.

            2. The Senator who insisted nobody leave….oh wait, he did not do that. Nor did he have any control over Texas power grid.

              1. Yeah. He coped in his own way. I’ll never understand why people dis him for that. They too were free to leave at any time they wished.

            3. >>Texas welcomes you

              hey now wait just a minute on that.

              1. And here I just read an article on how much other western state residents hate Californians moving there.

                I had gotten to Oregon being that way years ago. But now, Colorado, Montana, Washington and even Texas.

                The comments section was the worst. Downright scary. California has become the modern target of Brave New World’s fifteen minutes of hate in all of these other states. Despite the fact that, when looking at comparative, new entrant DMV registrations, more people from each of those states are moving to California in most years, then visa versa.

            4. You’re a funny Pollock.

          3. With this free decapitation we offer FREEDOM from all future suffering.

      3. They’re not blocking shipment of PC parts to anyone right of Mao yet, so it’s actually possible. For now.

      4. Until you get deplatformed/right-to-repair banned by Microsoft/Apple. Then it’s build your own cleanroom assembly plant for employees to jump off of in Shenzen.

        1. I remember the first time I went to Shenzhen. I city that (at the time) I had never really heard of, knew little about, and made New York City look like Mayberry.

      5. This would be more like if they banned pre-made cupcakes. The components to make your own are readily available, there’s tons of short tutorials on how to combine them, and it’s so easy children can do it. Sites like pcpartpicker UA mentioned even take the worry of compatibility away, only showing you parts compatible with the ones you’re using so far, and give you a list of who has it for what price.

        Building your own streaming platform is a vastly more complicated project that would take somebody not already familiar with web development many months, and would cost a fortune to promote if you wanted an actual userbase.

        Don’t get me wrong the regulation is still pants on head retarded and should be repealed, but unlike ‘make your own streaming platform’, ‘build your own pc’ is entirely within everyone’s reach (and can be cheaper unless you were going for the bargain bin cheapest possible already).

        1. Someone’s new here. Don’t get me killed, new guy.

      6. They’ll just start offering computers with extra slots that no one needs.

        This reminds me of the EPA mileage regulations that scale by the “footprint” of the vehicle. Bigger cars/trucks are allowed to consume more gas.

  3. California mostly banned new fossil plants of any kind, and made permitting so difficult almost no one tried. A few get built like Redondo and Huntington because they are replacing older units. But the effect over the past two decades was to build out in Nevada and Arizona. The same will be for high powered computer, cars, whatever just build it where Californians can drive to buy it. Of course that will bring back the “let’s check your car for fruit and veggies at the border because cough “mayflies” cough and not because of protectionism”

    1. People do not seem to realize how bad things could be for CA should they leave the US. They do not have enough energy OR water to take care of themselves.

  4. Another rule for the “elite” to preach about–and ignore themselves.

  5. this is typical of California’s energy programs, California requires all houses to meet certain energy requirements and ironoicly the bigger the house the easier it is to comply

    1. It’s all about making the peasants suffer. There’s no point if the aristocrats have to share in their suffering.

    2. and sorry, no gas appliances. everything has to be electric so you’re really out of luck during the rolling blackouts.

  6. Don’t worry, they can put a “smart modem” on your PC to help stop rolling blackouts, by reducing your power when electricity consumption is high (kind of like “smart thermostats” which can remotely turn up your AC setting).

    Remember to Keep California Golden (TM) by sitting in the dark and reading a book between 4 and 9 PM, when renewable energy is less available. But keep charging your car.

    1. You can read by the firelight created by the electrical wiring running through the forests.

      1. Perhaps some controlled burns should be done to deal with that?

  7. California – home of the worst regulations in the US.

  8. “…the California Energy Commission’s outdated website gave him a 404 error…”

    Hmm, from the time I spent there, I can safely say that the entire State of Cali is a “404 error.”

    1. You couldn’t find it?

      1. Nope. But then, I WAS looking for the “Golden State.”

  9. I drive a small 2009 Toyota Tacoma 2 seat, bench seat regular cab work truck. It’s about the most fuel efficient pick up truck you can get at 25 mpg. It is now illegal to manufacture those as there was some rule put in a few years ago about fuel standard relative to the product of wheel base multiplied by wheel track. When I upgrade I will be forced to buy a more expensive truck with crappier mpg and an extra row of rear seats that I won’t even use just to satisfy this rule.
    Environmentalists are morons and 90% of their rules not only make life worse for consumers, but they often counterproductive and actually increase pollution.

    1. Get the new Ford Maverick with the base power train. It’s a hybrid that gets over 30 mpg and starts at $21.5k.

    2. If the seats are removable, do it. You’ll have a lighter vehicle and get better mileage.

    3. You guys are missing the point. I love my Tacoma. It’s exactly what I wanted and does the job I need (and nothing beyond) at the cheapest (most fuel efficient) way possible. It was cheap to buy and hasn’t given me a lick of trouble in 135k miles. My point is if I were in the market for a new truck now with the same mission the eco-retrads have taken that option away in favor of something that is more expensive, more than I need and actually has crappier fuel economy.

  10. ” 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.”

    So Dell stopped shipping Alienware computers to Oregon because of California’s new regulation? Electricity is relatively cheap in Oregon because of the Bonneville Power Administration. That’s why the Columbia River Gorge has so many major datacenters in it.

    1. The other states are following California’s lead and adopting same regulations.

    2. Hell, I don’t know, just randomly speculating… It might have to do with distribution channels. Making sudden changes in mass distribution channels of big business products is tough! It may take Dell a while to re-scramble their channels to dodge around the craziness here! At or near the logical extremes, we have to custom-manufacture and custom-distribute products for each and every Podunk town, city, and county in the USA! “Interstate commerce” clause be damned, it seems!

  11. How many watts for charging an electric car compared to an idling computer?

    1. It costs just over a buck each time I charge my plug-in hybrid (about $11/month). My computer costs around $4 a month to operate — including down time. So the car costs about 3X as much as the computer On the other hand, that $11 on the car will take me close to 300 miles.

      1. Wait until there are 20 times as many EV’s on the road in CA. They’ll make you pay through the nose for it then.

        1. Excepting that I don’t live in CA. If I did, it would cost me more than twice that much to charge the battery…. and it is going to get worse.

  12. Speaking of unintended consequences, prepare for CA’s new pork black market:

    1. The Filipino population will provide the know-how for this. So many Filipinos have served as expat workers in Saudi Arabia that they had to organize a rather elaborate pork smuggling operation involving the inner lining of gasoline tankers. Do NOT try to come between a Pinoy and his pork adobo—-you WILL lose!

  13. Fortunately crypto-miners usually run flat out all the time so idle power consumption is irrelevant.

    1. Good point!

      “Bitcoin currently consumes around 110 Terawatt Hours per year — 0.55% of global electricity production, or roughly equivalent to the annual energy draw of small countries like Malaysia or Sweden”

      SQRLSY now back atcha… Not enough to pants-shit or pearl-clutch about just yet, but significant. Sad. This is the result of Governments Almighty inflating their currencies too much, and snooping on our money too much, and taxing us too much!

      (Add in other new crypto currencies, and I bet the total mining energy costs are higher, but I am too lazy to look it up).

      1. That’s ridiculous. 1/2% of our energy for no productive purpose other than to inflate a ponzi scheme.


        1. Exactly. What we need is for the government to decide what counts as a “productive purpose” so that we aren’t wasting all these resources which could be put to better use.

  14. guess i’m good to go because my pc never sleeps. it runs actively 24/7/365.

  15. There is a certain logic to this

    I’m gonna have to stop you right there.

  16. I actually read the full details on energy consumption. The most likely machines to be affected are the high-end gaming systems. The systems are measured at idle, which often uses 1/6th to 1/12th the power at full load. There are two factors that combined. The usage limits for the Largest systems. Dropped from 100 kWh/yr + to 75kWh/yr +. 25% is a huge change. At the same time GPU cards are using more memory with faster DRAM. These often account for 50% or more of the systems power draw. The additional power allowed for GPUs is not enough to keep up with newer cards. Never mind make up for that 25% drop in default power budget. Idling systems can reduce lots of processing resources, but 100% of memory has to stay powered up. Ironically if you just shut the computer off when done, it uses almost no power. So instead of encouraging deep hibernation setting by default they focus on a “middle of the road” approach that resulted in this issue. Also the rules are incredibly complicated. A proud bureaucracy they must be.

    1. The simpler solution is to eliminate the progs.

  17. Moonbeam mandated X% of CA’s electrical come from ‘sustainable’ sources by Y-date, which numbers he pulled out of his ass. Newsom, obedient piece of lefty shit he is, has kept the mandate alive.
    As a result, N/G plants are being closed to hit the mandated percentages
    We now have TV commercials extolling the ‘abundant’ wind and solar power available to all California residents!
    How abundant? “Please turn off your A/C between the hours of this and that”.

  18. I know it’s a silly dream, but I hope someday the federal courts stop allowing California to complete regulate interstate commerce.

    1. Once again, California makes things ridiculously complicated. Seriously, they’re using the hyperbolic tangent function to calculate power limits. Rather than make something simple, they’re going to make people use a computer to figure out if their computer is within limits.

      Simplicity is key, folks.

      1. “Simplicity is key … “? Not to the regulatory bureaucrats in government, it isn’t.

  19. CA the green-energy capital of the world.

    That magical energy that was so great only the ‘monopoly’ of greedy oil companies and their lobbying was holding it down who were going to destroy the environment.

    Now CA has the most expensive electricity in the intercontinental U.S. as well as the most tax-theft subsidized one and yet somehow that “miracle” weed didn’t pan out and so now there will need to be even MORE funding and MORE regulation and MORE government even to point of itsy-bitsy power use’s like a Computer.

    And that is what happens with Gov-Gun-Force *POWER* is being used instead of *Value* to run an economy.

  20. If there isn’t enough electricity for idling computers, there sure isn’t enough for every Californian to charge electric cars in 15 years.

  21. How much energy are Google, Facebook and Amazon web services using in their huge data centers? Row after row of servers are using so much electricity that they have to be cooled with chilled water.

    The government has been running PSAs with a child complaining about their irresponsible parents not unplugging cell phone chargers when not in use. At worst, that uses about 0.5 watts of power. It was pretty clear the intent was that your children should snitch on you to the government.

    According to a Forbes story last year, Google is using 12.4 terawatt hours of electricity per year. 12,400,000,000,000. Just think how much energy they could save if the server was turned off until it received a search request, and would boot in about 30 seconds to answer your inquiry.

    Is it code yet in California that lights have to turn themselves off if you’re not in a room for a specific period of time? Do government buildings have to comply?

    1. This was actually my immediate thought. What % of electrical use by computers in California is big corporate farms versus home computers? Are the people paying the price for actions by corporations which have lobbyists, etc to keep themselves from being targeted?

  22. You can understand these policies much better when you think of which demographics are targeted. Nerdy white guys play games and they must obviously be punished. But we must stop victimizing the Poopers of Color decorating the streets of San Francisco.

  23. Stop forcing people to use computers. If you have to report foreign bank accounts to IRS, you cannot report them with pen and paper, but only on line. IRS will take your house and your car but they won’t take cash. Millions of people filed for pandemic unemployment benefits, but were forced to do so on line. Some courts are requiring people to file court documents on line. Filing a lawsuit is a right; answering a lawsuit is mandatory.

    1. Was a time when you could apply for a job in person and the electrical cost was whatever lighting was already on in the office.

  24. Time to invest in a store selling PC parts and home appliances along the CA border like it was a good idea to invest in wet-county liquor stores after Prohibition.

  25. The Calipornia Regulatory “Department of Redundancy Department” took that old Monty Python skit to heart and uses it as a blueprint

  26. So if I want one of those computers, I need to drive to another state – not that big of a deal – or have it shipped to a friend in a different state who then ships it to me. Other than a minor inconvenience, I don’t see what the problem is.

    1. Let’s hope you are being sarcastic. “minor inconvenience” to have to travel out of state to buy perfectly legal products that should be available to anyone, anywhere?

      1. Actually, in some cases, it may be quicker to drive to another state. For example, when Illinois locked down and I couldn’t go to a bar for a drink, I simply drove 10 minutes north to a pub in Wisconsin where we were able to behave like normal human beings, raising our glasses to Fat Boy Pritzker and his Herculean efforts to bolster the economy of Southern Wisconsin with his illegal “orders” that were grovelingly followed by the sheeple inhabiting one of the most corrupt states in the Union.

  27. Just outlaw high performance graphics cards. You know the ones that come with one or two fans attached. You could cook breakfast on the heat sinks of some of those things. Let’s face it, it’s the gamers who are pushing performance levels and thus electricity consumption. While that’s true, I’m really just kidding. This is just more government meddling by pinhead who just can’t help themselves.

  28. More Nanny State nonsense from California in an attempt to cover-up four decades of gross mismanagement of water and electricity supply and policy by the Democratic Party of California.

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