economics, environment, Nova Scotia

Hey, Look Over There!

In what must be considered the most blatant corporate equivalent of jangling your keys to distract a child, Nova Scotia Power has indicated that they will be spending $50 million a year on conservation efforts to reduce power rates. Except that power rates will have to go up. Just until it’s paid for, you understand – then, as we take more responsibility for reducing our energy consumption, our bills should go down.

Uh-huh. So, let’s see if I understand you correctly. You’re saying that you are doing something positive for the environment. Fine. However, completely apart from that, you will raise my power rates until I take the responsibility of reducing them myself.

So, should I hold my ass cheeks open for you, or do you prefer to do it?  It’s up to you, apparently, since there’s no other place I can go to get energy. At least use some lubricant, for goodness’ sake.

This wouldn’t offend me nearly as much if we hadn’t found out due to an internal review (imagine if you will how insightful and probing that must have been) that the top execs at Emera and NSP were earning over $1 million a year for…whatever it is they do. That’s why this offends me – this is an example of attempted corporate spin – getting us to take our eyes off the walnut shell so they can dispose of the embarrassing pea underneath. This blatant political move, this attempt at distracting, this appeal to the basest parts of our brains…

…is, unfortunately, going to work, at least to some degree. Because, with one sweeping gesture, they presented the cause du jour – the environment – as  the distraction. Rhetorically, invoking the modern simplistic logic of the true capitalist, this places critics on a footing that by definition makes them look bad. How can you disapprove of saving the planet? Do you also kick old people and squish puppies?

And that, my friends, is why this angers me. To rake in monumental profits with one hand and cynically manipulate the ‘customers’ into believing this is a good thing, is the epitome of  – I hesitate to say ‘evil’, but let’s settle on ‘greed’ for the time being. For the NSP – the corporation that spent decades burning poor-quality coal and fouling the atmosphere, leaving caustic dust on cars that eats away the paint, to repeatedly ask for increases in rates with no justification, just a sense of apparent entitlement –  to ask for us to pay gratefully to be told what to do, in essence, is ludicrous. And offensive, and cliched, and frustrating…

…and awfully fucking clever.

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3 thoughts on “Hey, Look Over There!

  1. I read from the CBC article you link: the company plans to spend five per cent of its revenue — more than any other utility in North America — on new conservation programs. Hmmm, for a company that has a monopoly and a charter that effectively guarantees its shareholders a 10% profit, this costs them exactly, umm, nothing?

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  2. The devil is in the details on these sort of programs. The “gold standard” in efficiency programs is California’s– the efficiency surcharge on the utility bills was directed into a state-fund, which was then doled out to non-profit agencies that had to at least theoretically demonstrate they were doing real good.

    I say “was” because this has recently been pulled back under Pacific Gas * Electric’s purview, resulting, imo, in far less worthy projects being funded, and with far too much of the budget being siphoned off into “administrative” charges.

    So, I don’t have a problem with efficiency programs in the abstract. But there’s absolutely no reason for NSP to run the program. If the revenue was handled through a governmental program and non-profits, and completely open to public scrutiny, I’d be all for it. What I expect we’ll get, however, is a very secretive, administratively top-heavy, and ultimately extremely inefficient use of ratepayers’ money.

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  3. If the nspi were really interested in the environment, they would take action to kick the dirty coal habit. Back in the ’70s they were converting from oil- to coal-fired generators. Thanks to that, NS is one of the biggest polluters (per capita) in the country…

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