Wednesday, February 13, 2008

The High Cost of Living

When I got my gas bill for December I was shocked. I couldn't imagine having used $160 in natural gas when my bill for November was only $49. I chocked it up to having a water heater that was on the fritz and running the furnace too much. So I turned the heat down to a point where it was chilly in the house and just wrapped up.

Then I got my bill for January. $190! What is going on here? We got the water heater replaced, have turned the furnace down, even had a few days that we turned the furnace completely off and the bill was even higher than the previous month. Needless to say, I am not happy. So I took a closer look at the bill. Hidden in the fine print is a happy little policy. They charge as many different fees as possible.

There is a customer charge of $9.75. The is the joy I have for the privilege of being their customer. They say it covers the cost of reading the meter, issuing bills, maintaining the gas lines, postage, blah, blah, blah. AND that even if I don't use any gas for the month, I still get the joy of that charge. Whatever.

Then there is the distribution rate charge. The first 50 CCF(hundred cubic feet) is charged at $0.34655 and any over that first 50 is charged at $0.16664 for a total on this bill of $31.33. That charge is described as..." Recovers any of our costs of doing business not recovered thru the customer charge or base amount. These costs include taxes, salaries, depreciation, interest, etc." Now correct me if I am wrong, but shouldn't that all be covered in the customer charge? or in the rate charge for the product itself?

Now we move on down the bill. Gas Supply Rate. This is the only thing on the bill that I can see being an actual charge. This is the gas that I actually used. Danged expensive if you ask me, but there you have it. $127.46. OK. I will owe that I guess. But reading the fine print on that particular item just pisses me off too. "Gas Supply Rate is comprised of three disticnt types of gas supply related charges. These three charges are commodity, gas demand/inventory and LUFG. These charges are subject to change occasionally - up or down- depending on the supply of gas and current market rates, The GSR amount represents your share of (gas company) actual costs for the gas." So if I am reading this right, I am being charged the going rate of the fuel (commodity), a charge for storage by the gas company(demand/inventory) , and the LUFG whatever that is. That particular cost is $o.95119/CCF.

Now, in a nutshell, I am paying to be their customer, I pay a fee for being billed, and I pay a fee for the storage of the fuel until I actually use it. Hmmmmm, something isn't right here.

But let's continue.

Weather Normalization rate $0.55. I can deal with that amount. At least until I read the fine print. Arkansas customers are just lucky I guess. "The weather normalization adjustment lowers a portion of of your bill when the weather is colder than normal or up slightly when the weather is warmer than normal. Weather normalization adjustments apply only to bills issued November thru April." Now according to my bill, the average temperature for the billing period was 2 degrees colder this year than last year. That should mean my bill should have been credited instead of billed. Hmmm, am I getting screwed again?

But wait, do I see a credit here? A base rate adjustment of $0.17? Oh goodie! Hold on right below that is something called an EE cost rate and it is $0.50. No explanation for what that is either. And below that is a municipal franchise adjustment of $7.20. So there is a charge because I live in town, too? This is getting to be way too much.

Then there are the sales taxes broken down by state, county and city. Death and taxes are the only things you can count on. $14 and some change for that. Total bill is $191.19.

Now here is the real kicker. They have recently(within the last 10 years or so) found huge amounts of natural gas in our state. The regional gas company is pumping this gas out of the ground as fast as humanly possible and distributing it into a 3 state region. But being here in
Arkansas, you would think our rates would be lower since they don't have to pipe it so far. Wrong again. The gas company is trying to get legislation passed that can charge us the same rates as Louisiana and Mississippi by saying it isn't fair if our rates are lower. But! they are not paying the state any extraction taxes for the privilege of raping our resources. So the gas company is getting our resources for dirt cheap then turning around and charging us everything they can get away with, without the state getting anything but sales tax out of it. And people wonder why Arkansas is 49th in everything.

This is just another example of how big business is going out of it's way to pillage and destroy in the chase for the almighty dollar. The people who can least afford it are the ones who have to pay the most. It just makes me sick.

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