What is the Carbon Bubble?
The Carbon Bubble, Not So Delicious
Economic bubbles are nothing new – the housing bubble of 2008 and Dot-com bubble in 2000. These economic bubbles form when a commodity value is propped up by speculation, market manipulation, weak regulation/regulatory capture, and Denial. (The capital D was intended.) Recently, investment portfolio managers have started talking about a bigger, badder bubble. THE BUBBLE to end all bubbles! The Carbon Bubble.
The Carbon Bubble has all the classic markings associated with historic economic fragility –
Many long term investment managers are starting to divest from fossil fuels. They argue that these fuels will inevitably lose value because of climate change. Even the heirs of John D. Rockefeller, considered the founder of the American oil industry, have decided to divest from fossil fuels. “We are quite convinced that if he were alive today, as an astute businessman looking out to the future, he would be moving out of fossil fuels and investing in clean, renewable energy, said Stephen Heintz, president of the Rockefeller Brothers Fund.
UnBanked Unauthorized Unfair
How sketchy payment centers are fleecing the cash strapped
Remember when the Feds found $90K cash in Rep. Jefferson’s freezer? Well, for Louisiana, functioning on a cash basis is not that weird. Low and fixed income families are commonly “unbanked”, meaning that they do not have a checking account. According to FDIC, around 38% of Louisianians and 47% Mississippians are “unbanked” or “underbanked”. Instead of mailing in a check to the utility, they go to a payment center to pay their bills.
Unbeknownst to most of the world, some payment centers are “authorized” while others are “unauthorized”. Authorized payment centers are under contractual agreement with a utility to remit customer payments the same day they are received. So, if your payment is due February 15th and you pay on February 15th, then you have paid on time.
Unauthorized payment centers like Walmart, are under no requirement to remit payment to the utility on the same day. In fact, they are known to hang on to customer’s payments for 3-10 days and are under NO obligation to tell their customers that their payment could be late! So if you make a payment on the bill’s due date at an unauthorized center, you should expect a late fee.
While holding on to people’s utility payments allows Wal-mart to make lucrative short-term investments, they put their Customers at serious risk. Consequences of this practice include not just extra late fees – it could mean delinquency notices, disconnections (plus disconnection fees and then reconnection fees). It begs the question, why do unauthorized payment centers exist?
Wal-mart runs more than half of Louisiana’s unauthorized payment centers in Entergy’s territories. In spite of pressure from the utility and customers, the mega-store chain refuses to become an Authorized Entergy payment center. It’s confusing because Walmart is an authorized center in other states and even with other utilities in Louisiana.
Walmart and other unauthorized payment centers are taking advantage of Louisiana’s most vulnerable. Walmart is trusted by their customers. This is an intolerable situation. Walmart and Entergy customers deserve better!
Laissez l’Efficacite Energetique Rouler!
Let the energy efficiency roll!
Ok, so it doesn’t roll off the tongue like “Laissez les bon temps roulez – Let the good times roll” but we do get pretty excited about Energy Efficiency, even during Mardi Gras. Louisiana customers of Entergy, Swepco, and Cleco have joined the rest of the country and are offering energy efficiency programs. Victory Lap!
Residents are taking advantage of programs that help with assessment, planning, and costs of improving their homes and businesses. Our old leaky housing stock is getting a facelift to better handle our hot, humid climate. This will help take the shock out of those summer cooling bills.
The new state-wide programs follow the success of New Orleans’ Energy Smart program, now in it’s 4th year. Entergy and New Orleans City Council is finalizing the planning for phase Energy Smart: Phase II, building on the lessons learned in 3 years of work. Since the beginning of the program, millions of kwh have been saved in New Orleans, thanks to measures like home audits, to see where the electricity is going, HVAC maintenance, and insulation, so we aren’t paying to heat and cool our front yards. Energy Smart also includes a solar hot water heater pilot, as well as incentives for new homes.
Phase II of Energy Smart may include more focus on behavioral measures to help the 47% of New Orleans residents who rent. Often, the deep efficiency measures like insulation, are out of reach for non-owners, who often think of reductions simply as turning off lights. This isn’t surprising. After all, for a number of generations, the electricity bill was referred to as the “light bill,” but a simple vocabulary switch can bring us out of the dark. Lighting accounts for only about 10% of residential usage, while AC and water heating equal more than 50%. We certainly continue to support lighting conservation, and increased use of LEDs and CFLs over old-fashioned incandescent lights, but there is a whole world of conservation measures out there that protect quality of life.
Behavioral programs have become major parts of the energy efficiency movement, using new technology, and leveraging our broad connectivity to inspire energy engagement and usage shifts. Programs can allow a home-owner to gauge their usage in nearly real time so their bill isn’t a surprise at the end of the month. “Game-ifying” energy usage, appeals to our competitive nature to engage customers. These programs give customers comparisons of usage by neighborhood or city, helping us understand if we really ARE an Energy Star, and sometimes offering incentives for improvement.
Behavioral programs help with energy literacy. Understanding the value of regularly changing filters in AC units and unplugging appliances that unnecessarily drain energy even when turned off can make a significant difference in the number of dollars you spend. Like a leaky faucet overflowing the sink, small tweaks can add up in your favor.
If you haven’t already, please check out the Energy Efficiency rebate programs now offered by your utility and kickstart some serious long-term savings.