There’s some smart money placing big bets on a rebound for oil. Blackstone Group LP BX, -5.27% President Hamilton “Tony” James said last month that the company was “scrambling” to invest up to $10 billion in energy companies, according to Bloomberg. Blackstone CEO Stephen Schwarzman said during the company’s earnings call on Jan. 29 that the majority of Blackstone’s energy investments were “oil-price agnostic, including energy-transportation infrastructure where we have off-take agreements, merchant power, renewables and other types of energy-oriented investing.”
OPEC nations, along with Russia and Mexico, have refused to cut production, which is their traditional tool to prop up oil prices, out of fear of losing market share to the U.S., which has transformed the international oil market by greatly expanding hydraulic fracturing over the past decade. And U.S. producers might not lower production as quickly as some investors expect because of the significant improvement in the efficiency of horizontal fracturing wells.
Customers can find deals in competitive electricity markets if they take the time and effort to look at web sites such as powertochoose.org, the official comparison shopping site of the Public Utility Commission. The study cited a PUC survey of retail electricity offerings in Houston that showed nine deals in March that were lower than the regulated price of electricity in San Antonio.
For example, if you use a small amount of energy each month, you expect to be rewarded — right? Unfortunately, nearly all electricity plans from Texas REPs are advertised as costing more per kWh the less electricity you use. It’s a little like buying in bulk: Providers often discount your bill when you cross certain kWh thresholds. For instance, one 12-month plan from StarTex Power quotes 8.1 cents per kWh for 1,000 kWh a month and 8.8 cents for 2,000 kWh per month, but 12.1 cents for 500 kWh per month. Why the difference? Customers get $35 back each month if they pass 1,000 kWh of use, and another $15 back per month if they cross 2,000 kWh. In this case, using half as much electricity as your neighbor on the same plan wouldn’t get you half the bill.
1. Contracts: Before, there were no contracts. You signed up or you didn’t. When it’s the only game in town, you have to play by their rules. Nowadays, you’ll see these ultra-fabulous rates bandied about but it’s only by carefully scrutinizing the fine print that you’ll discover those wonderful rates come with a one-year lock-down or other catches.