Government targets Flat TVs, Rum and Oysters

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The latest consumer products that are being caught up in the regulatory spotlight are flat screen TVs, rum, and raw oysters.

Flat screen TVs
In California, the California Energy Commission (CEC) is considering new efficiency standards for television screens smaller than 58 inches.  If adopted, TVs sold in the state will have to be 33 percent more efficient by 2011 and consume 49 percent less energy by 2013.  It’s a proposal that shows a recent trend toward energy conservation even at the expense of middle class consumers.

CEC spokesman, Adam Gottlieb, said regulations will conserve enough electricity to power 864,000 homes annually and add up to $8.1 billion in savings over the next decade.  However, the Consumer Electronics Association, estimates new regulations would cost California $50 million in lost tax revenues, due to the drop in TV sales, and result in 4,600 lost jobs.

Rum and taxes
In Congress, a battle over federal subsidies and rum made it before the House Ways and Means Committee.  Puerto Rico is outraged that British liquor-producer Diageo, which makes Captain Morgan, is allowing a multi-billion dollar agreement with a Puerto Rican subcontractor to expire, and relocate to the U.S. Virgin Islands.  The move could cost Puerto Rico 2.7 billion federal tax dollars for infrastructure improvements and economic development.

The U.S Virgin Islands has offered to finance a water treatment center and distillery and market Captain Morgan in exchange for a 30-year commitment from Diageo to produce rum there.  Funding would come from The U.S. Virgin Island’s share of federal rum tax money.  The relocation gives The U.S. Virgin Islands a higher percentage of federal rum tax, at Puerto Rico’s expense.

Congress is being asked to weigh in and pass legislation limiting the uses of federal rum tax money by the Puerto Rican delegation.  Those in The U.S. Virgin Islands want them to permanently extend the rum-tax rebates.

Raw oysters
Down South, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is considering implementing a ban on raw, untreated Gulf Coast oysters.  The FDA proposal, set to take effect by summer 2011, is an attempt to prevent on average 15 deaths that occur each year in the United States as a result of the consumption of raw oysters infected with the bacteria Vibrio vulnificus.

The plan had sparked an outcry from Southern politicians who fear the ban would devastate the regional industry that supports 3,500 jobs and hurt the local economy.  The government is planning to conduct further studies before implementing a ban during months when oysters are most likely to be infected with the harmful bacterium.

As the government wades into the middle local economies anxiously anticipate the outcome.