Across the country, the cost of utilities are increasing for working families as fossil fuel companies rake in massive profits. Some areas, like New England, are particularly hard hit. Beginning Nov. 1, National Grid customers in Massachusetts saw their monthly electric bills increase 60% and gas increase 20% compared to last winter. Eversource customer increases range between 10% and 30%, or $47 to $68 per month. Massachusetts ratepayers already pay 14% higher than the national average electric bill.
The United States is the world’s biggest producer of both oil and natural gas. This makes it capable of keeping fuel prices low no matter what the international situation. Fossil fuel capitalists, however, are using the Ukraine conflict as justification for increasing oil and gas prices while reporting extraordinary profits and returns.
Chevron, for example, reported an astounding $11.2 billion in profits in the third quarter, and Exxon broke records with $19.7 in profits in the same period. This is the corporate response to the global energy crisis — raise prices and maximize profits regardless of the impact on families and workers.
While local utility companies cry crocodile tears that they are just passing on the hikes, they often add in their own price increases. Take Eversource, for example. At the same time that it is raising prices for its consumers, this New England utility company reported $3.2 billion in profits in the third quarter, up 32% in profits made a year ago.
Nearly 20% of U.S. households have already missed a utility payment due to the skyrocketing prices. In an interview with Liberation News, Turquoise Gosman, a tenant, worker, and single mother in Cambridge, Massachusetts, explained that, “Everything is inflated right now. There are people who are working full-time just to cover rent, and now they have to factor in a higher lighting bill.”
Meanwhile, parts of the United States may see energy blackouts this winter. From the Great Lakes to Louisiana, New England, Carolinas, and all of Texas are at risk. In a recent letter to President Biden, the CEO of Eversource raised that the possibility of New England fuel supply shortages in a severe cold spell “represents a serious public health and safety threat.”
Liquefied natural gas is typically used to supplement winter energy shortages in New England. Why might there be a shortage?
Since Russia is a major supplier of natural gas to the world, U.S.-organized sanctions and other measures to push economic decoupling of the West from Russia are contributing to this increase in global gas prices. Profit-chasing LNG companies are poised to take advantage of a possible dire situation in western Europe, unable to purchase Russian oil and gas, where they could sell their LNG at much higher prices — meaning U.S. workers could be left in the dark while paying inflated utility prices.
Negotiations with Russia, windfall tax on corporate profits can help lower utility costs
To lower energy costs and avoid the risk of blackouts, all progressive people in the United States can make several immediate demands of our government:
- A windfall tax on corporate profits to limit the corporate greed of the fossil fuel capitalists;
- An across-the-board price freeze on utility rates, such that essential utility services are affordable to working and poor people; and
- An end to U.S. sanctions on Russia. The U.S. government must pursue negotiations rather than fueling escalation through endless aid to Ukraine in the form of military and intelligence funding.
Access to energy should be guaranteed as a human right, not treated as a commodity for corporate profiteering.