It's another cold wintry day here in the Northeast. We're looking at another 7 inches of snowfall overnight, as a matter of fact. Fortunately, it's supposed to be the light, fluffy kind, instead of the freezing mush we got the last two storms, but we'll see.
Here in the TriSec compound, we're in an older apartment with drafty windows, and it often gets cool enough to put on a sweater downstairs. We've got forced-air heat, so most of it rises immediately upstairs, so it's like sleeping in a sauna.
But we're fortunate that we even have heat.
Every winter, thousands of families across the region wonder if they'll be able to survive the winter, and "food or fuel" is a very real choice for many in the deep winter.
It doesn't always have to be that way. Perhaps you remember 15 or more years ago now. Joseph Kennedy Jr., eldest son of former NY Senator Robert F. Kennedy, was up-and-coming in the Democratic party. He held Tip O'Neill's former seat in the House of Representatives, and was expected to run for governor in 1990 in this Commonwealth.
Well, he didn't. And for those of you outside New England, he's virtually disappeared since then.
For a long time now, Joe Kennedy has been running a charity called Citizen's Energy
. Joe essentially shakes down the oil companies to get heating oil at a discounted rate, and in turn he sells it to the needy at under-market rates. By all local accounts, it's one of the best-run charities in this city, and fills a desparate need for many.
Which brings me to Hugo Chavez. President Chavez of Venezuela has, for many years now, been the largest supplier to Citizen's Energy. Chaves doesn't treat oil as a commodity to be bought and sold by the highest bidder....for Venezuela it's an asset that can be used to improve the living conditions of his citizens. If that means selling it to the highest bidder, Mr. Chaves will do it, but more often than not, he doesn't. Oil is heavily subsidized in Venezuela, and the people there pay far less than the going rate for their gas and oil.
Even though the price of oil has declined dramatically this year, there hasn't been any lessening of demand for help from the needy in this country. By a cruel twist of fate, many people who "locked in" heating oil prices back in August, anticipating a crushingly expensive winter are now stuck paying double or more what they would have if they went with the market rates. Of course, the greedy oil companies won't let them out of those price lockups; why would they when they're raking in free money?
In any case, the oil price sank so far that in late December it was announced that Citgo (the national oil company of Venezuela) was going to cut back it's donations of oil to the US; they simply couldn't afford to do it because of the price.
Earlier this week, it was announced that Chavez had reversed that decision; apparently the PR is too valuable to him, so he's back sending tankers to Boston and other cold cities of the Northeast to help American citizens.
But all this begs the question....if Citgo can cut into it's massive profits to help out ordinary Americans, where are Exxon/Mobil, Shell, Gulf, Amoco, and the rest of big oil?
[Time Magazine has an interesting article about that this week. I won't quote any of it here, but here is the link.
It's worth a read, especially if you've had to turn down your heat to make it to the next oil delivery.]18 comments