Green chistmas -- Equal time on Working Assets vs. Entine
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From: Peter Langston <psl>
Date: Mon, 15 Dec 97 23:37:50 -0800
Subject: Green chistmas -- Equal time on Working Assets vs. Entine
Forwarded-by: "firstname.lastname@example.org" <email@example.com>
[I spent a few minutes looking at the web site. I was underwhelmed but
they do some point-to-point comparisons of their long-distance rates and
quote a letter to them from Joskow saying he was misrepresented by Entine.
Thanks, Steve! -Pardo]
Forwarded-by: Sidner Steve <Sidner_Steve@prc.com>
[Who are you going to believe? "On the Internet, no one knows
you're a dog." Thanks, Dave.]
From: Dave Babcook [SMTP:firstname.lastname@example.org]
I forwarded the "beware of green firms" memo to my long distance
company, Working Assets (only 'cause they give me a pint of ice cream
every month!!!!). They sent a reply and although I haven't read
through it yet maybe we should forward this back up the ranks if only
for "equal time". You decide.
Working Assets reply:
Thanks for forwarding that message. We are aware of it, and sent the
response below this week.
- Jody London, Working Assets
December 10, 1997
Dear Member of the Society of Environmental Journalists,
The current issue of the SE Journal contains an article, "Beware of
'green firms"by Jon Entine, so riddled with errors it would lead any
reader to conclusions usually opposite the facts. I hope that we can
clear up some of the confusion and damage caused by the article. We are
sending this letter to the SE Journal itself, and have rented the mailing
list so that you might more directly learn of our point of view.
In reading the article, please keep in mind that Mr. Entine has been
attacking Working Assets for some time, largely through the internet
because most publications have rejected his material once they do fact
checking. Extreme language, personal attacks, and an utter unwillingness
to correct simple factual errors have characterized his attacks. We have
collected a modest amount of information on this subject at our web site
The core of Mr. Entine's argument is that Working Assets charges prices
that are inflated in both electricity and in our core business of long
distance, while grossly misleading our electricity customers about the
source of their power. Both accusations are incorrect.
Working Assets Long Distance rates are quite competitive, and far from
"inflated." We compare our rates to those of our primary competitors
at our web site, and the conclusion is quite straightforward - most of
our customers save money over the comparable plans of the Big Three.
Working Assets fully disclosed the source of our power in two small
marketing trials in New England. We do purchase our power from New
England Electric, which was widely disclosed in all materials, and our
customers have received quarterly reports on the precise mix of power
that we are purchasing on their behalf.
Working Assets has participated in two small pilot programs in New
England which state regulators set up in order to learn more about
the likely effects of restructuring of the electric utility industry.
Both programs were tiny - in New Hampshire we signed up fewer than 100
customers and in Massachusetts we signed up fewer than 1000 customers.
In doing so, we were testing one piece of our comprehensive strategy for
reducing the environmental damage caused daily by our nation's current
energy policies. We have backed up these very modest market tests with
an extremely active policy program, in which we have generated more calls
and letters to decision makers in support of this agenda than any other
player, none of which was reported by Mr. Entine. Here are our public
positions, all of which have been fully available to Mr. Entine:
1. Every single utility must incorporate renewable power into its
2. Every single distributor of electricty must disclose its sources of
3. Public financial support should continue for renewable power.
4. Ratepayers or taxpayers should not bail out nuclear utilities from
having to pay for their earlier costly and foolish investments.
5. Tougher clean air standards should be imposed on utilities.
6. Big businesses should not be allowed to reap the benefits of
competition through lower prices until consumers can do likewise.
We did learn two things from our experience in the two trials:
1. Consumers are genuinely interested in using their electricity
purchases in a socially positive manner; and
2. Given the current rules, it is not possible for anyone other than
the incumbent utilities to operate a profitable business offering
electricity to residential customers (far from making extraordinary
profits, we lost money in both pilots).
Right now, including in California, which is set to restructure
January 1, the rules are rigged to prevent real competition. Now that is
A Few More Items Left Out by Mr. Entine
Mr. Entine states that Working Assets is charging a premium for green
power compared with other suppliers in the pilots. He fails to note
two essential facts, both of which have been provided to him:
1. All of our customers saved money compared to their previous
2. The reason that our power costs more than other new competitors
is that we are bringing power from eleven specific facilities
which collectively are more expensive and cleaner than the overall
system power upon which New England Electric System (NEES) relies.
By imposing strict requirements on NEES as to the source of the power,
we raised our costs, which flowed through to our prices. Mr. Entine
cannot have it both ways. In actual dollars, the price differential
Mr. Entine cites is a range in prices from 2.3_ per kilowatt hour to
3.41_ per kilowatt hour (those are the price figures published for the
Massachusetts pilot; Working Assets' price was 3.35_ per kilowatt hour).
Mr. Entine claims that Working Assets misled our customers about the
source of their power. This is patently false. We support public
disclosure of power sources and have fully informed all of our customers
in both pilots about the source of their power, by category and on a
Mr. Entine makes quite a point of saying we urged our customers to ask
whether their current supplier was a primary developer of Seabrook, the
horribly overpriced nuclear power plant. In some of our mailings, we did
in fact ask that, but continuing a pattern, Mr. Entine leaves out the
critical next point - far from hiding the fact that we were purchasing
power from New England Electric System, we told our customers the truth
at all points. There was no hidden use of New England Electric at any
time with any customer.
Mr. Entine quotes Professor Paul Joskow of MIT, using Professor Joskow to
argue that participants in the New England trials are having no effect
on generation or any positive effect on the environment. This quote is
incomplete and out of context. Professor Joskow has many comments on
the use of his thoughts by Mr. Entine, all of which are available to
the reader at the web site noted above: http://www.wald.com/thefacts.
The conclusion of an e-mail he sent to us, which we cite with his
permission, is as follows:
Mr. Entine misrepresented himself, violated my trust,
mischaracterized what I said, and has widely distributed
alleged quotations from an "interview" he never told me he
was doing without my permission. This is not behavior that
I have previously encountered.
Mr. Entine would serve his readers better by more fully revealing
his long-standing personal vendetta against Laura Scher, our CEO.
In only one example, he revealed his personal bias against Laura Scher
last spring when he circulated widely on the Internet a "playlet."
This "playlet," a copy of which is attached, describes Ms. Scher as a
"bitch," and castigates senior experts from the Natural Resources Defense
Council, Environmental Defense Fund, and Sierra Club.
Working Assets Did Not Invest In Community Products, Inc.
In an odd little segue from its primary point, the article inaccurately
reports that Working Assets invested in the now bankrupt Community
Products, Inc. ("CPI") and made several hundred thousand dollars of
profits. In fact, Working Assets invested no money in CPI and therefore
has not received a penny of return from investing in CPI. Working Assets
did provide marketing and other assistance in the start-up of CPI in 1989.
By explicit agreement, if and when CPI was profitable it would donate a
share of its profits to our donation pool to fund environmental groups.
Fully 100% of the funds received went straight to environmental groups
without any overhead whatsoever.
In addition, Working Assets received ten shares of stock in CPI related
to these efforts. We never received any income from this stock and it
now has no value. Moreover, agreements signed at the time explicitly
required that any profit from this stock would go to employees and
non-profit groups. This was not reported even though Mr. Entine knew it.
Working Assets arranged for a small number of investors to purchase
approximately $100,000 of subordinated debentures that CPI was issuing
to raise start-up capital. CPI chose to pay off a portion of this loan
after a few years, with a pro rata rate of return to the note holders.
Two of the small investors were Working Assets employees and they were not
paid out fully and remain unsecured creditors with no chance of repayment.
These specific corrections to Mr. Entine's material do not in any sense
indicate that any other statements in his writings on Working Assets,
Community Products, Inc. or Ben & Jerry's are true.
Mr. Entine is not only misleading the readers of the SE Journal, he is
missing the big story on electricity restructuring - the multi-billion
dollar bailout, by ratepayers, of the nuclear utility industry. This may
be due to his own animus towards Working Assets or his positive views
about nuclear power. This bailout, negotiated behind closed doors,
is likely to be one of the biggest acts of corporate welfare in United
States history. Why Mr. Entine believes that the debate around green
electricity is a bigger issue than that is something worth the time of
an environmental journalist.
Michael Kieschnick President
P.S. I am enclosing a copy of our donations ballot for this year, to
better acquaint you with the work we do.
© 1997 Peter Langston