Tuesday, June 03, 2008

Expect a huge influx of snowbirds this year...

Had a conversation with my sister in Denver (who's putting up with me putting me up during the Democratic Convention in August :) ). Our father and his wife, who live in New York, were pricing home heating oil for next winter.

They estimated that during a typical winter, it takes 1500 gallons to heat the house.

The quote they received?

$4.70 per gallon, or more than $7,000 to stay warm for a few months.

They're in a position to handle it (though it's gonna hurt) - bite the bullet and pay, install a wood stove (there's a fireplace, but while those look nice and make for a great picture during the holidays, they suck for actual functionality in modern homes), add insulation, etc.

However, not everyone is in such a position (think: poor or elderly and on a fixed income).

Those folks are going to be left with a few unpleasant options - find a way to scrimp and save to pay for the heating oil, find warmer climes for the duration of the winter, or freeze.

Yep - live on a dog food diet, abandon their homes, homes that in many cases have been their homes for decades or even their entire lives, or die.

All so oil companies can make record profits every year, collectively $123 billion last year alone.

[As an aside - can anyone think of a better illustration of why a McCain presidency and another four years of Bushian economic policies would be horrible for the country?]

The next President and the next Congress are going to have some tough choices to make, the kind of choices that most Republicans are ideologically incapable of making.

Think: investigations and prosecutions (when appropriate) into price-fixing and more, a windfall profits tax, a working (and actually funded!) program for research into renewable energy beyond solar power tax credits (perhaps paid for by the windfall profits tax?), etc.

Of course, none of that will come to pass until some other things come to pass -

...the November elections, because no one in D.C. is going to admit to the existence of an energy crisis or the deep recession that we are already experiencing until after the votes are tallied. Until they're willing to honestly talk about the economy, nothing is going to get done about it.

...a Democrat, Barack Obama, assumes the Presidency, and enters office working with a Congress with a strong Democratic majority in both chambers.

Unfortunately, neither of those will happen until January, by which time it will be too late for some.

The news headlines as the country enters January will be of the pending change in Presidential Administrations, but breaking news from Chicago, the Rust Belt of Ohio, or perhaps even upstate New York, will drive the coverage of inauguration preparations below the fold.

People will start dying.

The boring statistics part of the post -

According to price surveys by the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA), the average price of home heating oil in New York State has risen more than 62% in the last year and more than 168% since George W. Bush took office in January 2001 (and more than 244% since its Bush-term low in December of 2001.)

I used New York's numbers because of the family connection, but the while the numbers vary, the trend holds true across the nation -

Nebraska - up 430% since December 2001

Michigan - up 265% since December 2001.

Maine - as of March, up 136% since September 2004 (the earliest date available on their website)

According to this U.S. Department of Energy document, through March, the average U.S. price has increased 174% since 2001.

Somebody will be sure to comment on this post, or at least think very loudly, that the increases in consumer prices only reflect increased costs to the producers.

To that I ask - If that is the case, that the price increases are only a case of passing along cost increases, why are oil companies generating billions more in profits?


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