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At the DC Energy Expo a couple of weekends ago, my jaw dropped when I learned just how much energy it takes to run a plasma television set: A whopping three times as much electricity as a regular TV.  Even when they aren’t running, plasma TVs suck an enormous amount of “vampire energy” – the power an appliance draws when turned off but still plugged into the wall. One of these beauties can set you back an estimated 1,452 kilowatts a year, or nearly $160, just by leaving the thing plugged in when your not using it, according to the U.S. Department of Energy. So, it’s little wonder that the California Energy Commission – which enjoys being the country’s environmental advanced guard – voted yesterday to ban plasma TV sales. The ban came in the form of new regulations requiring new televisions sold in the state to consume 33 percent less electricity by 2011 and 49 percent less electricity by 2013.

California’s crusading for tougher vehicle emission rules is often credited with raising the bar for a new national auto emissions standard. Will the same be true for TVs? Or will the ban just ruin some people’s enjoyment of big-screen rituals such as Super Bowl Sunday?