The Costs of Natural Gas Gouging

You might think that the year hasn’t progressed far enough along to designate the most notorious email. But we have one, delivered yesterday, without pomp nor apology, from SDGE—the so-called utility serving San Diego County. Excerpt: “Effective Jan. 1, 2023, a typical residential customer can expect an increase of $120 on their monthly natural gas bill relative to last January”. Say what?

Gosh, “new pricing became effective on” the first day of the year, according to the service provider. That’s a polite way of warning customers that they are about to get whacked aside the head with mindboggling blow. KPBS explains:

The increase means residents who had a peak winter gas bill of about $105 last January can expect the January 2023 bill to be around $225. Customers who are enrolled in the CARE bill discount program could see their January gas bills increase from around $60 to $130.

Am I math challenged, or are those new numbers more than double? If I understand rightly, customer cost rises from $2.36 per therm a year ago to $5.11 per therm now.

According to the fine folks at University of San Diego who collect data on our local “quality of life”, the region’s usage of natural gas “is consistently lower than other California counties”: 261 therms, annually per household. That’s a polite way of saying the price increases could be so much worse if consumption were higher.

The Wilcoxes only use natural gas to cook, of which we do for almost all meals. Our consumption for the previous 12 months was 41 therms. If usage in my apartment stays at the 5 therms level like last January, we can expect a basic increase from $11.80 to $25.55—without including other fees, such as Community Choice Aggregator (CCA), which added $20.66 to my previous month’s bill.

Many of my neighbors rely on natural gas for furnaces. We used ours once after moving here in 2017. The noise scared our cats to hide under a bed, and we never touched the thermostat again. Because we receive ample sunlight and airflow—and the windows are airtight—we either use nothing or for short periods blast one of two Dyson heaters.

Assuming average usage as identified above, the typical household would use 21.75 therms per month at an expected cost of $111.14 this January compared to $51.33 during the same month in 2022.

Did I mention that electricity tends to cost much more than natural gas? Greater usage is one reason: annual average of 6,375 kWh per household, according to the non-profit data watchers at University of San Diego. That’s about two-and-a-half times our usage for the previous 12 months, without adjusting for a dramatic drop after we switched from wired Internet and IPTV to 5G, over-the-air broadcasts, and streaming. I never would have guessed how much electricity the equipment consumed. Good riddance.

For our last bill, electric accounted for $110.43 versus $8.69 for natural gas. Ah, yeah. SDGE says the average customer will see a $10 increase for electric. Wow, we should all feel so lucky.

Tell that to my many neighbors already pinched by other rising costs, like food and housing. Many seniors live on fixed incomes with little to no wiggle room. Some of them will lose homes that they own, or worse, their lives. The region may be temperate but wet winter weather is enough to bring upon hypothermia to the aged. At least kids can curl up together or with mom and dad to share body heat.

San Diego Gas & Electric blames rising costs for purchasing natural gas. I wonder: Would there be such pricing problems had Joseph Biden not cancelled permits for the Keystone XL Pipeline project on his first day in the Oval Office (Jan. 20, 2021)? You tell me.

I used Leica Q2 to capture the Featured Image, today. That’s a cast-iron frier over the flame on our gas stove. Vitals, aperture and shutter speed manually set: f/2.8, ISO 2500, 1/60 sec, 28mm; 3:50 p.m. PST.