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Crisis Vultures Are Circling Over the Energy Industry

, Senior Energy Analyst | May 18, 2020, 11:46 am EDT
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This post is a part of a series on COVID-19 and the Coronavirus Pandemic

Disaster capitalism exists. I know that. And the thing is, I don’t object to making money, even during a crisis. You shorted the oil market and made a killing when demand collapsed? No objections here. Invested in Peloton because you knew people would want to work out from home? Good for you.

What differentiates those hypotheticals from what I call “Crisis Vultures” is that Crisis Vultures are using the fog of COVID to avoid scrutiny as they push their unethical agendas.

In the past month I’ve seen:

  • Energy efficiency under attack by electric and gas industry shills that are coming out of the woodwork to call for ending all energy efficiency programs and standards. Energy efficiency helps people save money, now is the worst time to cut efficiency funds.
  • Multiple Indiana utilities have come together to demand regulators allow them to jack up residential rates because the state’s industrial and commercial sectors aren’t using as much electricity. Imagine if Hulu, Netflix, and Disney + all colluded to increase their fees by 30% because stay-at-home orders have us all binge-watching our favorite shows? They’d be sued for price gouging and for anti-competitive behavior.
  • A shady group that masquerades as a “consumer advocate” has requested that federal regulators take over rooftop solar transactions, a move that would effectively end net metering and prevent countless customers from saving money by switching to solar.
  • Coal barons are trying to strip away protections from coal miners, and oil and gas executives are pushing for corporate bailouts and permission to pollute.
  • Unfortunately, the list goes on…

Pushing for corporate interests that are in direct conflict with the broader public interest is sickening. It just infuriates me to see this all happening not despite all that is going on but because everything else is going on and bad corporate actors are taking advantage of our weakened state.

I’m not naïve; I’m not surprised when I see companies push for policies that benefit their bottom line—but companies are run by people, and any person with any sort of moral compass would know that trying to profiteer from a crisis is morally reprehensible.

Vultures are a majestic animal, and I have no problem with vultures acting like vultures, but it sickens my stomach to see people acting that way.

I feel grateful to work here at UCS, where so many of my colleagues have pointed out that there is an all-out attack on policies that protect public health right now. See our blogs here, for a continued documenting of these all-too-frequent craven attacks. And if you are so moved, you can support our work by donating here.

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