As citizens, we must back more energy sources|OUR OPINION

Published 12:00 am Sunday, August 31, 2008

When a headline says there’s a “rate cut” that means rates will lower, right?

Well, not necessarily. These days it takes a slide rule to forecast what heating and cooling bills will be — plus, perhaps, a machete to chop through the spin power-sellers place on changes in the price of their services.

The two highest monthly bills most people in the Vicksburg area pay are to the City of Vicksburg for the natural gas component of their monthly statements and to Entergy for electricity.

Email newsletter signup

Sign up for The Vicksburg Post's free newsletters

Check which newsletters you would like to receive
  • Vicksburg News: Sent daily at 5 am
  • Vicksburg Sports: Sent daily at 10 am
  • Vicksburg Living: Sent on 15th of each month

The charges both utilities have passed through to consumers have changed more sharply in the last year, it’s safe to say, than ever in history.

The good news is that the City of Vicksburg has been able, due to a decrease in the cost charged by suppliers, to drop its fuel cost adjustment on monthly bills to $4.31 per 1,000 cubic feet of gas from $8.26.

That’s a rate cut — a sharp rate cut — but all it does is take the rate back to March levels. It’s still tremendously higher than the $1.76 per 1,000 cubic feet surcharge that was put in place in August 2007.

Similarly, Entergy Mississippi announced a midsummer surge from $10.88 per 1,000 kilowatt hours to $36.81 as its quarterly fuel cost adjustment.

Because the adjustments are one of the two components of bills — the other being base rates designed to cover operating overhead — Entergy was able to say with a straight face that more than tripling the fuel adjustment would result in a 29 percent increase in bills overall. The same math, albeit complicated, applies to City of Vicksburg bills.

Entergy has since announced a series of “reductions in the increase,” also termed “rate cuts,” will come. Again, that’s welcome news. Overall, however, no one should be confused. Electricity bills will remain at record levels. The current adjustment is almost 10 times greater than it was in the first quarter of 2004. And, as recently as the first quarter of 2007, Entergy actually provided a small credit against the base rate because it estimated fuel costs too high in the previous quarter.

As consumers, all we do to save on these bills is conserve. As citizens, we can demand that our state and national governments move forward as expeditiously and safely as possible with efficient alternative energy sources. For Entergy Mississippi, that must include nuclear power serving the state’s people from a second reactor at Grand Gulf.

Fluctuations in fossil fuels aren’t nearly a thing of the past. Until there are more companion energy sources, confusion and uncertainty will dominate the picture when it comes to such basic needs as heating and cooling our homes.