In memory of Bernice Watts

OKC Catholic Worker HOME

In July, OG&E shut off the electricity to Bernice Watts' house. She was 86 years old and is the latest victim of Oklahoma's energy marketplace. She owed a bit more than $200, & even though OG&E is booking record revenues, their stockholders lacked compassion, so they cut her off. She died of heat exhaustion.

In response to the negative publicity from this and other incidents, the utility companies are fiddling with their procedures a bit, proclaiming their compassion, the Corporation Commission is making a little noise, and then after a while things will go on pretty much as they have before. Mrs. Watts isn't the first to die, and she certainly won't be the last.

Here's the plain truth. The poor, which includes people working for minimum or near-minimum wage, are being priced out of the energy market. No ifs, ands, buts or maybes. A substantial number of people will still be paying last winter's energy bills when this winter arrives.

So we need some practical alternatives: propane tanks and heaters, hot plates, crock pots, electric frying pans, toaster ovens, solar cookers, camp stoves that run on bottled propane, kerosene heaters and kerosene, wood stoves & fire wood, propane & kerosene refrigerators, & lots & lots of blankets; rolls of plastic & lathe to cover people's windows, & people willing to go out and do that. We could also use some help from people who are handy with wood working tools to help build & test a design we have for a solar air heater that fits into a standard window.

We wish we had easier things to say, but this is what a culture of death looks like. Pretending that this isn't so won't make it go away and be all better. To twist the anti-smoking slogan a bit: "What if we told the truth about the energy marketplace and the poor?"

PS. OG&E contributes funds to organizations that support abortion, so perhaps we shouldn't be surprised about their lack of compassion.