There are few businesses as noble as utility companies. They keep us warm, clean, and connected, and prevent us from drowning in our turds. Sure, the fact that they require billions of dollars of singular infrastructure means you can't make them as capitalistically competitive as cupcake stores, but they're all just run by workaday Joes trying to do right by the people, right? Well, no. It turns out that any market with an impossible barrier of entry and which 100% of the public has be a customer of (or else they, y'know, die) doesn't attract the most humanitarian of money-lovers. In fact, by the looks of the American public utility system, it's Mr. Burnses all the way down. For example ...
Duke Energy Lobbies Hard To Keep Energy As Dirty As Possible
Monopolies aren't all stagnating pools of one-percenters draining their customers' pocketbooks for little in return. There are also plenty of state-regulated utility monopolies. Like Duke Energy, which in places like North Carolina has sole access to the market, but has its prices and expenses determined by publicly elected officials. That way they transform from a festering system of stagnation and exploitation into a festering system of stagnation and exploitation with extra steps!
According to most watchdog groups, Duke only cares about one kind of utility bill: the ones passed by state senators. For them, the government isn't a stern overseer setting prices and practices, but another mark to upsell. Every year the company pours tons of public funds into a powerful lobbying machine that efficiently (illegally) extracts votes to maximize profits. In 2019, Duke tried to push a bill that would've raised their monopoly profit cap from 9.9% to 10.9%. And while that one percentage point may seem harmless at first sight (as they all do until the man-hunting rifles come out), it would've meant Carolinians would have been forced to pay billions more over the next decade for the exact same product.
Duke EnergyAlso known as the iPhone business strategy.
When Duke can't use its dirty money to make more money, it uses it to keep things dirty. Since infrastructure costs money, the company also lobbies aggressively to hold onto its old coal-vomiters and crumbling nuclear power plants instead of upgrading to green energy.
But in case you want to accuse Duke of not acting as a public utility, it does take that title very literally, in that it constantly tries to utilize the public to clean up its messes. The company has successfully lobbied to charge their customers extra to pay for cleaning up their environmental disasters. Thanks to its greasy lobby mill, its client states are the most polluting of the entire nation, generating a mere 2% of their energy from green sources, far below the (already quite sad) national average.
Veolia Water Knew Flint Would Be Poisoned And Said Nothing
They say the lead in the aqueducts is what made the Romans go insane, lose their empire, and give a political office to a horse. Today we're way past that point, and nothing signifies that more than the ongoing water crisis in Flint, Michigan, which has left a first-world city without potable water for years now. So many people have been sickened and even died due to the incompetence and callousness of ... who, exactly?
Five years on, the citizens of Flint are still figuring out whose heads should go on the lead-encrusted spikes. Recent news has shifted some of the blame away from the municipal government and toward Veolia Water, a water privatization multinational whose name coincidentally can't be spelled without "we violate." In late 2019, emails retrieved by watchdog Corporate Accountability show that the company knew that about the looming disaster seven months in advance. It simply chose not to warn the town that its water was about to become poison because, in true '80s villain style, it would've cost them some money.
Linda Parton/ShutterstockAt least cartoon bad guys poison the water to do something cool like brainwashing, not to pay for their marina dues.