Last Week Tonight with John Oliver: Electric Utilities
May 18, 2022 4:35 AM - Season 9, Episode 11 - Subscribe

This week (episode taped on 5/14)... Ferdinand Marcos, Jr. was elected President of the Philippines as was feared in the previous episode, Norway presents a severely WTF entry to Eurovision. Alabama bans the use of hormones and puberity blockers to treat transgender patients under the age of 19, making it a felony punishable by 10 years in prison, a bill signed by Governor Kay Ivey. And Now: The Delightful Delight Of Allison Hammond. Main story: electric utilities: the incredible amount of power their wield, how weakly they can be regulated, and the damage that can do, which has resulted both in the creation of spurious and badly-managed projects in order to charge more on bills in profit, and in them attacking community-led solar projects that threaten their bottom line. In the end, John Oliver is killed by Reddy Kilowatt. On YouTube (24 minutes).

Just saying: the "Delightful Delight" piece is an absolute balm.

Important names:
"Subwolfer": The first band in the first segment ("Get that wolf a banana").
Kay Ivey: Alabama Governor who signed the transgender youth treatment ban.
Pacific Gas & Electric (PG&E): California's awful energy utility, whose equipment failing was responsible for the 2018 California fire that killed over 90 people.
South Carolina Electric & Gas: Withheld information on a failing nuclear construction project so they could continue charging customers more money.
Duke Energy: company that got a non-profit in North Carolina fined for selling solar energy generated on a church's rooftop.
Mississippi Power: Also involved with a scandal relating to using construction as an excuse to inflate profits.
Alabama Public Service Commission: Described as " of the most opaque, politically motivated, and environmentally hostile commissions in the country."
Twinkle Andress Cavanaugh: Current head of that commission, who ran as a Republican with an extremely ideological campaign ad. She also said she wanted to "exclude the environmentalists" from participating in a formal rate review.
Chip Beeker: Another ideologically-motivated utility commissioner in Alabama.
FirstEnergy: Ohio power utility. Paid Chairman of the Ohio utility commission Sam Randazzo $22 million in private consulting fees in the years preceding becoming their regulator. (Source: Ohio Capital Journal)
Chuck Jones: Unnamed in episode, but is CEO of FirstEnergy, the one who sent a photoshopped image of a number of involved people's faces over Mount Rushmore to those people with the caption "HB 6 FUCK ANYBODY WHO AINT US" (Sources:, Proceedings of United States District Court, Southern District of Ohio, Western Division)
Larry Householder: Speaker of the Ohio House of Representatives, and one of five in Ohio charged with racketeering. Accused of funneling $60 million from FirstEnergy into a 510C4 dark money group called Generation Now. The money was allegedly so Householder would allow passage of HB 6, called "the worst energy bill of the 21st century." (Householder denies wrongdoing and the case is awaiting trial.)
Gavin Newsom: California Governor who blew off a reporter's question about accepting a contribution of $200,000 from PG&E.
posted by JHarris (3 comments total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
In a better timeline, I could have had an entire episode of Eurovision jokes and Allison Hammond laughter!

As it stands, it says something that there are so many utility company scandals that this episode couldn't even circle back to Texas/ERCOT, which got it's own lead story not so long ago and which claims it is prepared for summer demand despite already asking consumers to conserve usage last weekend due to unusually high temps and asking power plants to postpone pre-summer maintenance. (Link is to the Austin American-Statesman, but complaints about last weekend's conservation request are also rampant on social media.)
posted by the primroses were over at 9:25 AM on May 18, 2022 [3 favorites]

Are we still doing 'worst timeline' bits? Because I think this fits.
posted by Marticus at 8:26 PM on May 18, 2022 [1 favorite]

Oliver doing another compassionate piece on trans. Good stuff, especially the clips of the young adults, really humanizing.

I've always wanted a set of the Blade Runner glasses. Apparently they were a real (high end) thing, and there are current runs of that product. But I can't even begin to justify getting two of them at € 90 a pop.
posted by porpoise at 10:48 PM on May 18, 2022 [1 favorite]

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