Tuesday, May 06, 2008

Hypocrisy on Wheels

illo:reddy kilowattI miss Reddy Kilowatt. When I was a kid, he was the very personification of Wisconsin Electric Power Co. Helpful, friendly, sometimes cautionary but never scolding; all he did was build clean and safe coal and nuclear power plants and deliver cheap and abundant electricity right to every room of your home, where you could put it to a myriad of wonderful, modern, time-saving and convenient uses.

Reddy was a good spokesthing. (Much better than the other personification of WepCo, anyway, which was a tubby slob in a truck with a hardhat on his head and a Milwaukee goiter hanging over his toolbelt, who had to turn sideways to get through doors.) And the best part of all about Reddy was, except for the occasional stern warning about the dangers of using octopus connectors, Reddy never delivered sermons.

These days the Reddy Kilowatt character is owned by my local gas and electric provider, Northern States Power, which in turn is owned by Xcel Energy. (How did they miss calling the company Xcel NRG?) And Xcel Energy, sadly, never misses the opportunity to deliver sermons. Every month, along with my bill, I get a little trifold tract sharing the good green news about some wonderful new environmental initiative they're pursuing, be it energy audits, hydro power, biomass fuel, strong-arming me into buying compact fluorescent light bulbs, or building lines of giant bird-mincers, stretching across the prairie as far as the eye can see. Xcel just loves to tell me, over and over again, just how wonderfully green they are.

Which makes it just brilliantly ironically hilarious that at 9:30 this morning, as I was driving to work after a doctor's appointment, I found myself behind two slobs in a white Xcel Energy minivan, driving west on Valley Creek Road from Radio Drive to 494. (That would be a white Plymouth Voyager, Minnesota license plate AA4086, fleet number 422108, in case anyone's curious.) And while I couldn't tell what it was they were eating, I watched them fling a constant stream of litter out the windows, all the way across Woodbury.

Ah, but there is one important difference: in this glorious 21st century, the slob power company workers are now not-unattractive young women.