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Consumers Energy Super Bowl message was a shallow PR stunt designed to distract us from all the money the company makes from dirty energy

February 6, 2019

On Super Bowl Sunday, viewers in the Lower peninsula of Michigan saw a 90 second message from the CEO of Consumers Energy, Patti Poppe. The message was both an apology and a thank you to businesses and residents of Michigan, since the company asked people to turn their thermostat down.  

Such a statement from the CEO of Consumers Energy should be seen as a shallow PR move, especially considering what Consumers Energy represents. Consumers Energy is a company that has been profiting off of the public for decades, while manufacturing energy that has caused a great deal of harm to public health, to environmental devastation and to climate change.

While Consumers Energy likes to show that they have a diversified energy portfolio, the company has primarily manufactured energy through coal, which has been one of the worst forms of energy that humans have ever used

However, the company takes no responsibility for their role in destroying the environment, harming human health and adding to the climate change crisis. In fact, Consumers Energy now likes to talk about how they are a responsible corporation that embraces the Triple Bottom Line – People, Profit and Planet.

This was Patti Poppe’s message to those who gathered at the Econ Club of Grand Rapids in December. Local talking head Rick Albin did a short interview with Poppe before her Econ Club talk, where Albin said, “you are always looking at what is best for Michigan.” This type of uncritical thinking is what we are used to with the news media in West Michigan. Of course, the CEO of Consumers Energy would not be challenged at the Econ Club lecture, because the people who attend such functions share the ideological principles that Patti Poppe does, which of course is that Capitalism is Wonderful.

The Consumers Energy CEO commercial during the Super Bowl did generate a fair amount of Michigan news coverage, but it focused on what Patti Poppe had to say and less about the company. Sure, there was some criticism around residents having to turn down their thermostats, but the criticism was limited and narrow in scope.

According to Salary.com:

As President and CEO, CMS and Consumers at CMS ENERGY CORPPatricia K. Poppe made $6,862,295 in total compensation. Of this total $1,100,000 was received as a salary, $1,144,000 was received as a bonus, $0 was received in stock options, $4,263,888 was awarded as stock and $354,407 came from other types of compensation. This information is according to proxy statements filed for the 2017 fiscal year.

Imagine if people knew that the person who asked us to turn down our thermostats makes nearly $7 million a year.

Another relevant question for the news media to ask would be how much the company spends on lobbying and political contributions. According to the Michigan Campaign Finance Network Consumers Energy spent the following amounts on lobbying in Michigan during the past four years.

2015      $311,117

2016      $230,820

2017      $225,651

2018      $129,314 (for January – July)

At the federal level, Consumers Energy has spent $4,119.558 on political contributions since 1990 and $23,073,752 on lobbying since 1998, according to OpenSecrets.org

There was going to be a ballot initiative in 2018 for Michigan that was energy related, but Consumers Energy and DTE Energy struck a deal with the ballot organizers in the Spring of 2018 to keep the issue off the ballot. The deal would require both Consumers Energy and DTE Energy to commit to relying on 25 percent renewable energy by the year 2030. While some may see this as a positive step, it is grossly inadequate levels for renewable energy use, especially considering what the global climate scientific community has been saying. For instance, the US Global Change Research Program, which published its Fourth National Climate Assessment, makes the following statement in their summary of findings: 

Communities, governments, and businesses are working to reduce risks from and costs associated with climate change by taking action to lower greenhouse gas emissions and implement adaptation strategies. While mitigation and adaptation efforts have expanded substantially in the last four years, they do not yet approach the scale considered necessary to avoid substantial damages to the economy, environment, and human health over the coming decades.

In 2012, there was another ballot initiative called 25 by 25, which was calling for 25% renewable energy production in Michigan by 2025. Consumers Energy spent money to defeat the ballot initiative

Therefore, it seems pretty clear to this writer, that the message from the CEO of Consumers Energy was a shallow PR stunt designed to get the media and the pubic to focus on turning down our thermostats instead of critically assessing what the real function of Consumers Energy is……to make as much money as possible while harming human health, destroying ecosystems and making climate change inevitable.

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