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Pass the Gas, Please: MGE's Monopoly and You
by Mark M Seeger
Email: mseeger33 (at) aol.com (unverified!)
Current rating: 6
11 Jul 2003
Brief news and commentary on a recent activist meeting with MGE representatives on the company's potential raise of fees and natural gas distribution in subtle relationship to our geopolitical world, scandals, and terrorism.
Tuesday, July 8, 2003
Near 12th and Charlotte, St. Mary’s Episcopal Church, Kansas City, MO—
Apparently there are about 12 members of Kansas City’s metropolitan activist group the Consumer Advocates Union, or something similar to that name. I accompanied a member of this discreet group to a meeting on July 8 with Missouri Gas Energy’s Consumer Representatives. This small group of dedicated activists arranged a meeting with 4 MGE representatives to discuss several issues, significantly the rumor of a 30% increase in MGE fees within the next year.
The group appears to be headed by a committed social worker and fellow social and political activists whom any peace activist, doubtless, would have seen at recent political teach-ins and war protests. Eleven audience members, including myself, attended this question-and-answer session with four MGE employees. Ron Crow, MGE Director of Customer Service, Paul Snider of Public Affairs (the major MGE speaker), Rae Lewis, Senior Customer Advisor, and Kim Crockett of Community Relations fielded mostly prepared questions from the group.
Nearly 95% of the gas used for MGE and this nation’s pipelines to heat your home/stovetop/oven is domestic, according to MGE. About 5% is foreign or imported. MGE controls or services about 95% of the Kansas City metropolitan area. MGE stretches to St. Joseph, MO, Joplin, MO, and near St. Louis, MO. It has about 500,000 customers. Essentially, MGE has a monopoly on natural gas distributing in our region. However, as the MGE reps mentioned, their franchise in non-exclusive and theoretically another distributor could become more powerful than MGE through competition.
Unanswered questions filtered through my mind while listening to Paul Snider’s well-crafted, fairly welcoming replies to questions. What about CEO pay and benefits? What about the average workers’ pay and benefits? What about unionization of workers and contractors? What about the average customer’s wealth? What about this company’s net revenue? What about environmental protections and energy alternatives?
MGE, according to Snider and his colleagues, has about 700 employees and a payroll of approximately $30 million. Snider was uncertain of his company’s annual net revenue, although Crockett whispered while pointing to the packets they handed out to important group members in the audience. By my math, $42, 857.14 would be allotted to each employee per year if every worker from bottom-up were paid equally. However, we know that in a capitalist and even quasi-capitalist society this is not so. After all, the average pay for a Kansas City male worker is between $31,000 and $35,000 per year. Deducting $10 million from this payroll to pay the owner(s), chair members, vice presidents, and directors, the menial employees would get almost $30,000 per year if divided by 680 employees. This, of course, is assuming that $10 million is split between 20 ‘important’ people in MGE. This is unlikely, and, even if it is not, still unjust?
STAR writer and reporter Steve Everly has hypothesized a feasible 30% increase in MGE’s fees. These fees are not directly on gas, rather on the customer charge and energy charge. MGE has made no plans to change its charges, but would not deny the possibility. How this potential increase may affect senior citizens and the poor was mentioned. MGE works with federal and social programs to assist these people. But who decides who gets help and doesn’t? What about the senior citizen on prescription medication, suffering from Veteran cutbacks, wanting to live, eat, and buy dog food for his best and only close friend, Max, and still pay for his lodging? What about the single mother struggling to pay for air conditioning, car insurance, and gas bills to feed her children? MGE says they care and “free money” is available. But mending the wounds and healing them are different from preventing them.
The MGE workers mentioned phrases like “supply-and-demand dilemma,” “Arctic refuge,” and “Iraq issue.”
How does this fit into our pursuit for justice and liberation for the world, this community, and we the workers? How does this fit into a war on terrorism?
Finally, are we troubled by any ideas or practices here? What will we do? What should we do?
Re: Pass the Gas, Please: MGE's Monopoly and You
(No verified email address)
Current rating: 0
12 Jul 2003
....The MGE workers mentioned phrases like “supply-and-demand dilemma,” “Arctic refuge,” and “Iraq issue.”....
Its just hard being in control of and responsible for a monopolistic company like MGE...all those pesky problems, you just want to get your product to the consumer and make everyone happy. If we could just tap into Alaska or gain some control in Iraq or devise a way that demand could be lessened or supply increased. Boy, we've just never been able to figure out why every winter the demand becomes greater and mysteriously the supply becomes less...where does it go...why every summer does the supply increase...how does that happen..wow, could be the Arabs..must be the Arabs...or terrorists...or welfare mothers...or drug addicts...they wait for winter to strike and then they cut off our supply...or..or..or...we don't really have to come up with too many stories like that because most people don't inquire and besides, where else are you going to go? It's just always been like that..in the winter the gas prices raise and in the summer they drop and the elecricity prices increase; who knows why, its just as big a mystery to your benevolent, altruistic corporate overloards as it is to you. And if you ask too many questions we'll just blame it on "the government"/"crazy enviromentalists" for not letting the people exploit Alaska, or the Arabs in Iraq...or... you get the picture. Just go with it, it can't change, it's just the way it is, besides, there's nowhere else to go.
There is something to be said for cities owning their own utilities companies in an egalitarian collective manner.