Dear KHOU: Please remove this factually inaccurate TXU Ad!!!

by Robert Nagle on 6/29/2009

in global warming,Texas/Regional

(If you would like to complain about this ad, contact Miles Cathey, Director of Local Sales, [email protected]).

Dear KHOU/Channel 11:

I am a Houston resident and longtime viewer of Channel 11. Last night I saw a commercial which at best could be called misleading and at worst could be called a blatant lie.

During 60 minutes you featured a TV commercial for TXU  electricity. I don’t have the ability to rewatch the commercial, but I can describe it.

It is a bright upbeat ad featuring young smiling people holding signs with various words on it. One of the signs said the word "renewable" on it.

That would imply that TXU offers a renewable energy plan to Houston consumers. In fact, that is not the case. TXU offers no such renewable  plan.  According to www.powertochoose.org (a site run by the Texas Public Utilities Commission), here are all the plans offered by TXU at the moment in my area in west Houston. 

TXU Energy MarketEdge,
2% Renewable Energy content
98% nonrenewable: 
  39% Coal and lignite
  44% Natural Gas
  13% Nuclear
  2% Other

TXU Energy Texas Choice (also TXU Energy Texas Choice 24 and TXU Energy Texas Choice 12 )
10% renewable energy content
90% Nonrenewable
   36% Coal and Lignite
   40% Natural Gas
   12% Nuclear
   2% Other

In fact, TXU is well-known for its reliance on coal power (and has been the target of  criticism by many environmental groups).  They offer only mixed plans containing a small percentage of renewable energy.  In comparison, 16 different companies offer "true" renewable plans (see the list below). For TXU to claim that it sells renewable energy is like the Monty Python sketch where the waitress tells the women who doesn’t like spam that the menu item  "SPAM EGGS SAUSAGE AND SPAM "doesn’t have much spam in it". image

This may sound like the usual weasel words we typically find in advertising. In fact,  ads like this are a deliberate attempt to sow confusion in the minds of consumers. TXU knows that consumers regard climate change as an important issue (last week’s Washington Post survey shows that by a margin of 3 to 1 Americans think the feds should regulate greenhouse gases).  This ad is subtly intended to reassure nervous consumers that TXU is not emitting greenhouse gases (when in fact the opposite is true). You may say: the people in these ads are only holding signs with words on them. TXU is not claiming that it offers renewable plans. If that is the case, then the actor should not be holding up that sign at all.

I don’t know whether your local reporters have already covered this, but the most amazing thing about the Houston energy market is that many of the green/renewable energy plans are as cheap as — if not cheaper than — many of the nonrenewable plans. If only more Houstonians knew this fact!

I understand how hard it is to find ad dollars these days, and I know you can’t be expected to fact check every commercial that runs on your TV station. However, you do not have the right to run commercials with false information. Perhaps the reason why "true renewable energy companies" haven’t paid for ads on Channel 11 is that they know that TXU’s misinformation campaigns on your station is already confusing consumers.

Ironically, in late April, 60 minutes ran a  piece about coal where leading climate scientist James Hansen was quoted as saying:

"We are going to have to phase out emissions from coal within the next 20 years if we hope to prevent climate disasters..  We are going to have to have a moratorium on new coal-fired power plants within the next few years and phase out the existing ones over the next 20 years or so if we have to preserve the climate like the one that has existed  (over) the last several thousand years."

If the  ad omitted  the image of the actor holding up the "renewable" sign  were omitted,  the ad would no longer contain factual errors. I urge you to consider this edit or  not run the ad at all in its present form.

Robert Nagle

*******************************************************

Here is a list of the "real" renewable energy plans available to Houstonians right now. Note that many of the companies on this list also offer mixed plans (containing renewable and nonrenewable fuels) in addition to their renewable plans. 

Gexa Energy Green (6, 12)
100% Renewable energy content

YEP Green Earth 100%
100% Renewable energy content

Dynowatt GoGreen (6, 12)
100% Renewable energy content

Dynowatt Residential Go Green Variable Plan
100% Renewable energy content

Stream Energy Green & Clean (Variable and 12)
100% Renewable energy content

Bounce Energy Smart Green
100% Renewable energy content

Green Mountain Energy Pollution Free Smart
100% Renewable energy content

Southwest Power and Light Renewable Healthy Heart Of Texas Fixed Rate E-Plan 
100% Renewable energy content

Amigo  GoGreen 100% Renewable Energy
100% Renewable energy content

Ambit Certified Green (6, 12, variable)
100% Renewable energy content

Green Mountain Energy Company  Pollution Free Introductory Offer
100% Renewable energy content
Kinetic Energy Simply Green One-Year 
100% Renewable energy content

Texpo Energy Clear Blue Skies 100% Renewable  (12,
100% Renewable energy content

Spark Energy, L.P. Spark 100% Renewable Advantage 12 month plan
100% Renewable energy content

First Choice Power Simply Better Advantage Green
100% Renewable energy content

Reliant Energy Monthly Flex 100% Texas Wind
100% Renewable energy content

October 13, 2009 Update. I now see that TXU does offer 100% renewable plans. Perhaps their commercial was run too early?

{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

mazza May 5, 2010 at 12:27 pm

which one of these electric companies do you work for?

Robert Nagle May 6, 2010 at 1:38 am

I don’t work for any of the companies listed above. Are you implying that the only reason one should hate fossil fuels is because you work for a company that doesn’t produce them? That would be ludicrous.

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