Tuesday, June 02, 2015

"Clean energy," schmeen energy! When the fine print gets this fine, it gives off the smell of a con artist preying on people concerned about global warming.

Above: part of a scan from the back of a two page order sent to me at junk mail rates by something that calls itself "Clean Energy Option."

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.

18 comments:

Cirze said...

Stunning.

Twice the usual rate? So they make money when the marks who don't read the fine print sign up?

Thanks for reading it for us.

We need people like you on their boards.

Again, our thanks.

Sunshine-Warrior said...

When Bush and the Republicans got rid of the Public Utility Company Holding Act, the deal was signed, sealed and delivered. We are back in the era of the teens and twenties of last century so hold onto your wallets. On the other hand, we do need to build out all this new technology like wind, solar, maybe hydrogen (unless that supplants the others) and Tesla battery technology and others I don't know about yet nor do most people. And Capitalism works the same way it always did. One thing is certain. There will be change and probably for the better, but in the short term look for a public fleecing. That's the way it always has worked before and I don't expect it to be different this time around. Actually I'm not anti-capitalist, it does work, it's just that our politicians are perhaps worse than they were in the teens and twenties. Because Teddy Roosevelt and his Republican successor, I forget which one, but he was the one who applied the antitrust laws with a little too much passion for the Republicans; they were present and had cleaned things up a little. And we don't have that ground preparation this time around so it's liable to be worse than it was before Roosevelt got through the Public Utility Companies holding Act. Don't just hold on to your wallet, hold onto your hide as we might get skinned alive.

The New York Crank said...

Sorry I took so long to get your post up, Sunshine-Warrior. I was, uh, distracted.

Crankily,
The New YOrk Crank

Unknown said...

This post is a public service. I hope everyone who receives this letter has the sense to look into it online.

Jennifer Harlock said...

So glad I checked into this! My husband got the same letter a few months ago, and the utilities are in my name! I smelled a rat and searched the address, and like the blogger here, found it highly suspicious! Thank you for posting this.

Iggy said...

"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."

Thank you! That's exactly what I wanted to know, and I noticed that it wasn't addressed in "Frequently Asked Questions" and the FAQ had weasel words in any question that MIGHT have addressed it:

"Q. Will I notice any change?"

"A. You won't notice any change in how your electricity works."

Thank you for actually taking the trouble to find the answer to the question I actually had.

Anonymous said...

They are working their way north. I received the same form letter today, but mine was signed by Tom Crowder. I google the mailing permit zip code and it is in Green Bay, Wisconsin. When I googled the name your site came up.If NY had a sane AG it might be worth complaining about

Allan said...

This was an amusing post to read. My only gripe with you is that you're encouraging people to not choose green electricity suppliers just because you didn't like the marketing methods of ONE company. There are other green electricity suppliers that sell 100% clean energy for the same price or less than ConEdison does.

As a person with an audience you must take care with your words. No doubt people that could have helped us generate fewer carbon emmissions will read this post and choose not to go green.

Finally, you make the point that a person who purchases renewable energy makes no meaningful difference in terms of carbon production. That couldn't be further from the truth. Once a person chooses clean energy, while yes, it is true that they continue to be supplied from the grid, their utility now needs to buy less polluting energy.

Instead of purchasing extra fossil fuel energy, your green supplier will top of your utility's grid with clean energy.

If you need the numbers to confirm what I'm saying please get in touch.

The New York Crank said...

Umm, Alan? My post encourages people to read the fine print and weed out the phonies and the ripoff artists.

If this encourages people not to "go green" when in fact all they'll be doing is letting some scammer twist a cause to his own purposes so he can reach deep into their pockets, I'll plead guilty.

Interestingly, I noted that you joined blogger the same day you posted here. Coincidence? Or are you a PR man for someone, Alan? Just wondering.

Yours with extreme crankiness,
The New York Crank

Anonymous said...

So I received this WASTE OF PAPER scam today. Green air, clean air, whatever the bleep the piss yellow form states is irrelevant to the fact that anyone stupid enough to 'JUST SIGN & SWITCH' has no common sense in this day & age..

Anonymous said...

Dirty rat bastards. Doesn't anybody work for a living anymore?

Anonymous said...

Just want to say Thank You to everyone that has posted here I'm a disabled grandmother raising my grandkids so every penny here has to be accounted for and this is definitely not the savings I'm looking for . . . . So to the Garbarge it goes . . . LOL ☺

Sam Carroll said...

Hey Crank! So when you go to the bank to withdraw money, and the teller (or ATM) hands you a stack of bills, do you ask, "Hey wait! How do I know these are MY dollars, and not someone else's?" No, no you don't. Because you are smart enough to know that all dollars are the same. Dollars are a fungible commodity, just like energy. Your purchase of energy is the same way: You can only buy energy that is actually being produced, much like you can only withdraw dollars that are actually attributed to your account. So regardless of where the electrons streaming into your home are coming from (with the help of "pressure" from other electrons that are in the system, of course), you can be certain that your purchase is your vote, and that your extra demand for a specific type of energy will spur further supply to meet that demand. The recent surge in popularity of organic produce works the same way: The growing supply is racing to keep up with the growing demand. I know you're clever enough to understand this.

Allan said...

I can't compete with just general pessimism. And Discus is more my thing.

Allan said...

*sigh* ConEdison offers a variable rate, meaning your price changes as often as every month. Even if you're not interested in going green there's an advantage to choosing as esco so long as you find one with fixed rates. that'll keep you paying the same price each month for as long as you choose.

But I've also seen green energy plans that are also price competitive with conventional energy but with the same benefite above.

The government and/or these companies is just doing a very bad job at relating the benefits. Bad actors are going around with just "sign here".

The New York Crank said...

Sorry Allen. This piece was written in June, pretty close to the peak energy use season, when rates tend to be highest. So in the high price season Con Ed was charing about half of what this ESCO charges.

I'm not opposed to buying clean/green energy. I'm opposed to profiteers who rip off consumers in the name of clean energy.

Buyers beware.

Yours with extreme crankiness,
The New York Crank

BrooklynLass said...

About two to three times a year these nice innocent-looking young men and women come knocking at my door (looks like the type trying to make extra money for college). They always claim to be from Con Edison. I always ask for show of ID. They always "never" have. They always ask to see my Con Edison bill so they can show me where it says on my bill I can opt out of Con Edison for their company with no differences in my bill. The first time they asked I couldn't find my bill. Lucky for me I didn't.

After they left, being suspicious about lack of ID from Con Edison employees I did some research. I learned once they have your bill to supposedly show you certain information about changing to their company, in actuality many were "memorizing" account numbers on the sky and changing accounts from Con Edison to this or other scam clean energy accounts. So the next time they showed up I had an old bill with my account number "blacked out" with a marker. They looked at it. See no account number they can memorize. Sputtered a few nonsensical words then we're on their way.

All that to say "be careful folks". Before signing with any of these folks do your research before signing on the dotted line.

Urban FLRT said...

Thank you for posting. I received the same letter today. I know better than to sign something without researching it first.

I immediately Google'd "Clean Energy Con Edison Reviews" out of curiosity, and your article came up. Of course, two sentences in, I knew what to do, tear up the paper. Thank you again.