“If you don’t freeze to death or die or run out of water, they will put you in poverty for the rest of your life,” Richard Wilson, a journalist and environmental advocate said in a new TikTok video. His video came after a related NPR piece showed up in my Twitter feed, and the two inspired me to shine a spotlight on this.
NPR reported that Jerry Jones’ company hit the “jackpot” as these storms sent natural gas prices surging. These storms meaning the ice storms that impacted Texas, Louisiana, and the rest of the Midwest, South, and Gulf regions.
Comstock Resources Inc. is a shale driller operating in Louisiana and Texas, and Jones holds a majority of the shares. Comstock told investors in an earnings call that the surge in natural gas prices provided the company with a major and temporary financial boost. Roland Burns, President and Chief Financial Officer, compared the tragedy with winning a jackpot. “Obviously, this week is like hitting the jackpot,” said Burns.
It’s a harsh dichotomy — people are without electricity, and then some oil & gas companies are making an enormous amount of money on the shortage? Richard Wilson breaks that down in his video. “There’s something really big going on in Texas and you need to know about it,” Wilson said in his video. “I don’t need to tell you guys about what’s going on in Texas right now, but what you’re not hearing about is the individuals that do still have electricity are getting f*cked. Here in California, the average price per kilowatt-hour is somewhere between 60–70 cents. And that’s really expensive. You wanna know what it is in Texas right now?”
In the video, Wilson pulled up a graph from a customer that showed just how brutal the energy company is treating those who still have power.
- Total kWh: 143.2
- Average Price: $6.92
- Energy Cost: $990.44
- Total kWh: 1403.7
- Average Price: $2.08
- Energy Cost: $2915.97
- Total kWh: 111.4
- Average Price: $9.03
- Energy Cost: $1005.65
This brings the grand total to almost $5,000 for energy in Texas during this three-day period. The audacity of these energy companies to charge $9 per kWh, while we are not only in a pandemic but enduring a natural disaster, is unreal. “If you don’t freeze to death or die or run out of water, they will put you in poverty for the rest of your life,” Wilson said in his video.
Javier Blas, Chief Energy Correspondent at Bloomberg News, shared a tweet that should anger anyone who pays for electricity.
🔥🔥BOOM 🔥🔥 GameStop? Nope; it's the price of the Oklahoma regional benchmark natural gas (OGT), rising vertically to $999 per mBtu (this is up ~33,200% from its price two weeks ago of less than $3 per mBtu) | #OOTT #TexasFreeze #texaspoweroutage #LogarithmicScaleForOGT pic.twitter.com/oX2JjSYsZ9
— Javier Blas (@JavierBlas) February 16, 2021
The image Blas shared was a graph of the Oklahoma natural gas wholesale price from Oneok Gas Transportation (OGT). The numbers were the cost of natural gas per million British thermal units (mBtu). Two weeks ago, that cost was less than $3 per mBtu. That number is up nearly 33,300% from that $3 price tag.
It’s illegal, this is known as Price Gouging. It’s not a federal crime but most states, including Texas and Oklahoma, do have anti-price gouging laws. Unfortunately the penalties are small when compared to people dying, and it’s apparent it doesn’t prevent companies from doing it
— spockdad (@Josh_spockdad) February 19, 2021
This is incredibly wrong. Energy companies shouldn’t price gouge during times of natural disasters. Many Americans have already had their homes destroyed by bursting pipes, have lost their electricity, and have been struggling with temperatures that they were not prepared for.
And those who were fortunate enough to have electricity are paying well over double. It’s as if we’re being punished for using it. Yes, we. I had electricity, and Entergy predicted my bill for March will be over $300, when I’m used to paying in the $125 range.
It’s Going To Get Worse
The Advocate reported that these bills will be higher in March and April. Logan Atkinson Burke, executive director for the Alliance for Affordable Energy, which is a consumer advocacy group in New Orleans, didn’t hold back. “The bills we are going to see are going to hurt, basically kick them when they are already down,” he said. Next month’s bills won’t include some of the higher prices that were paid for fuel to run generators that make electricity. Or the cost of restoring power downed by icy lines — those may come next year.
Entergy Louisiana’s President, Philly Pay, told The Advocate that the bills will definitely be higher due to a dramatic increase in energy consumption. “Depending on when their bill cycle is, that additional usage will show up on their next bill,” he said.
I’ve been using the same amount of energy all year long, but my bill has gone nuts lately. I’m paying almost $300 a month in energy bills now. It was less than $100 in 2019. And, unfortunately, I can’t just switch to Tesla solar or any solar since, one, I rent, and two, my house is over 150 years old and needs work done on it to be able to go that route.
A lot of power was used over the past three days. The Advocate noted that my area’s regional transmission operators reported that on Monday and Tuesday the consumption hit record levels. “Based on the information we are hearing, both (regional transmission operators) hit all-time peaks,” said Brandon Frey, PSC secretary heading the staff that supports the five elected utility regulators. May checked his own usage and noted that it was up 50%. “Clearly, my increase has gone up a fair bit in just the last day,” he said.
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