While citizens of Texas are facing a crisis of massive proportions brought on largely by the failures of natural gas companies to weatherize their equipment, one natural gas company, owned by Dallas billionaire and Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones, is cashing in on the crisis.
Demand for what little natural gas the state can access has soared amid the crisis as millions have gone without power this week, and consequently, wholesale gas prices have gone up nearly 300-fold. This week, some residents in Texas reported getting hit with massive electricity bills — one man’s bill shot up to over $8,000 in the course of two days — while they navigate power outages, food shortages and boil-water advisories.
But not everyone is struggling. The chief financial officer (CFO) of the natural gas company owned by Jones, Comstock Resources Inc., had this to say on a call with investors about the crisis: “Obviously, this week is like hitting the jackpot with some of these incredible prices…. Frankly, we were able to sell at super premium prices for a material amount of production.”
While many Texans are concerned about finding warm shelter and water, Comstock is evidently having a field day with their profits from this crisis.
The company could be selling their product at anywhere from six to 74 times what they were selling for on average last quarter, according to figures reported by NPR, the CFO said on the call. Meanwhile, investors were evidently pleased with the news, as the company’s stock shot up about 12 percent in the days surrounding February 17, the day of the call.
Jones, who had $1.1 billion invested in the company in 2019, will likely profit handsomely off of this energy crisis that experts now say was largely caused by failures of the natural gas industry in the state at large.
This wouldn’t be the first time that executives at energy companies have cashed out on environmental crises — as blackouts hit California in the past years to prevent wildfires that happened anyway, bankrupt California electric utility Pacific Gas & Electric paid out millions in bonuses to its executives. Some of those bonuses were for meeting safety goals, even though PG&E had caused huge and devastating fires in the state. In the fallout of the destructive fire seasons, the state’s utility commission allowed raises in consumers’ energy bills.
Similarly, Texans may end up paying out of pocket for the high prices that Comstock is celebrating. Though the prices have skyrocketed over the past few days, higher electrical bills may not go away with the energy crisis. Texas’s Public Utility Commission, which oversees electrical prices, has stated that “Energy prices should reflect scarcity of the supply.” Energy experts said that these high prices will eventually be paid for by consumers.
As the crisis continued on Wednesday, Rep. Cori Bush (D-Missouri) said that things like Comstock’s massive profits this week shouldn’t be allowed and that utilities like water and power should be “guaranteed to all.” “Corporations shouldn’t be allowed to profit off our suffering,” she tweeted. “Utilities need to be public goods.”
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