Yes, all that mouse type is part of the terms and conditions under which you and I will have have to live if we sign up to get our watts from Clean Energy Option instead of the regular electric utility.
Of course, the other side of this blindingly small type, is an upbeat letter in quite readably large type, from someone named Christy Nagle, that tells me
"It couldn't be easier to convert to clean energy. In fact, you barely have to do anything at all. Just use the form below to obtain your electricity from newer sources."And the letter adds,
"There's no new equipment needed, no home visit necessary. Use electricity exactly as you do now. Your bill will still come from ConEd. Your supply will come from Clean Energy Option, an Energy Services Compay (ESCO) authorized by the NYS Department of Public Services to sell electricity to residential customers."Well, Ms. Nagle, I do believe that you are fudging the truth just a teensy-weensy, itsy-bitsy little bit. The juice that comes out of my light socket is exactly the same juice whether I sign up for an ESCO, stay with my public utility ConEdison, or insert a pair of AAA flashlight batteries directly into my nostrils and then plug my tongue into one of my electrical outlets. It's just a bunch of streaming electrons that are set in motion by the Con Edison gas burning plant a mile away from my Manhattan home.
All Ms. Nagle does when I sign up with her is to force Con Ed to buy a piddling number of kilowatt hours from Clean Energy Option. This may or may not result in a tetch less personal carbon usage on my part. It will most certainly result in a lot of book keeping, and higher electric rates for everyone. As for the carbon saved, my suspicion is I could save the world from that much carbon each day simply by pulling Christy's junk mail letters out of every letter carrier's mail bag so that they'll huff and puff less along their mail routes, exhaling less carbon dioxide.
What's in the rest of the fine print? If you decide actually to read those several thousand words, (estimated) please let me know. They're not designed to be read - except maybe in court if your good intentions go awry, and you sue to get your money back. They're written in very small type, and printed on yellow rather than white paper, with the lines closely set together in wide measure, because all those things are known to discourage reading, just as David Ogilvy taught in his 1961 manual, "Confessions of an Advertising Man." (Note, the link is to a much later paperback reprint.)
Oh, a few other things. I googled Christy Nagle and checked out her Linked-In page. Although the signature block on her sales pitch tells me she"s "Customer Releations, Clean Energy Option" her Linked-In page tells me she is in real life, "Director, Acquisition Marketing at Ethical Electric." And although her return address on the hard sell side of the contract is "911 Central Avenue, STE 24, Albany, NY 12206, her Linked-In page tells me that "Ethical Electric" is in Washington, DC.
Oh, and a Googled image of 911 Central Avenue in Albany, NY, indicates a three-story office building, so Suite 24 in the building is likely to be little more than a rented room. Oh, and another view of 911 Central Avenue seems to reveal the building is in a shopping mall. It looks like the kind of place where a 60 Minutes crew would go and knock on a locked door, after which a passerby lugging a bagful of groceries would say, "There ain't been nobody there, mister, for the last eighteen months."
Finally, I whipped out my handy magnifying glass and braved the fine print on the back of this piece of junk mail, looking for the price of my new "clean" juice, should I choose to buy it. They're going to charge me 16.9 cents a kilowatt hour. I checked the not nearly so fine print on my last Con Ed bill. They're only charging 8.6 cents per kilowatt hour, close to half the price.
No wonder Christy's numbers got hidden in the fine print.
Listen folks, I'm for keeping the atmosphere clean and carbon-free, too. But the way to get that done meaningfully is to get our crooked legislators, twist their arms behind their backs really, really hard, until they howl in pain and tears begin streaming down their faces, and demand they pass a law requiring a shift to solar, wind and tide power by the big utilities. Because the next time, Mr. Legislator, you're going to hear your own bones snap!
You can try to do it piecemeal with ESCOs, too. But then you'd better hang on real tight to your wallet. Because behind every letter stroking our good intentions, there's a profiteer waiting to skin us alive.
And if you don't believe me, squint real hard and read the fine print. All the fine print.