Wednesday, March 15, 2006

The Rising Cost of Natural Gas

I was surprised to find that my neo-con sister-in-law and I agree on a subject. Price gouging by natural gas companies. She lives with my wife and I and offered to take a utility bill and pay half the rent. She chose the gas bill. To keep a small, one level, 3 bedroom house between 69 and 71 degrees Fahrenheit (while we're at home) costs about $300 a month according to Questar gas.

This seems ridiculous.

We got a letter from the Gas company the other day with a neatly written letter explaining how price hikes aren't their fault. That it's because they have to buy natural gas on a fluctuating national market that we are having these price issues (never mind their industrious profits). They also including a chart outlining how little (allegedly) profit they really make.

My favorite part about this form letter was the back. On the back they had a nice note saying approximately this: "Your bill must be paid regardless and we're not cutting any poor people discounts. Here's a list of organizations and charities we're willing to loot money from that will help you with your bill." And that list had numbers for fifteen or twenty organizations that might be able to help you. How nice of the gas company to send this to all of their customers.

I mean, all of this is pretty bad. First off, we should take natural gas off of these free markets like this. This is how Enron was able to do so much damage to California. Secondly, we should institute caps on the price. I mean, natural gas is a requirement for heating your home. This would save poor people a lot of money.

But it would save the State a lot of money too.

Think about how much it costs to heat an elementary school? Or a junior high? Or all thousand of them in the state? That's a lot of money.

We should do the same thing with diesel prices, too. Think about how much money out of the education budget is going into transportation costs to get kids bussed to school. We should also set up a way to start getting the busses to run on used vegetable oil. It would make available a hell of a lot more funds to actually teach the kids. Don't you think?

I don't know. I'm just throwing this out there.

Regulating utilities like Questar that hit our citizens and students the hardest would be a good bi-partisan issue that State politicians could get behind and actually do their constituents some good for a change.
(Instead of trying to legislate religious bigotry and idiocy. Yes, I'm talking about Chris Buttars.)


Duckie Butters said...

Hey Bryan,

I hope your health improves! Meds are a good thing when you need them.

Have you checked with blogger to see if something is wrong with the way comments are being sent to you? (or NOT being sent to you, more likely)

I commented several days ago on one of steven's posts and it still hasn't shown up. Believe me there was nothing rude or crude in it so I figure the whole system has gone haywire. Either that or the internet might be broken. Just thought you'd like to know.



I spell my last name like the bread spread, unlike that other guy.

Kevin said...

I think a rant about gas prices really should begin with the massive rise in gas consumption by US consumers. This is due to sprawl. The amount of space that each American heats is far greater today that it was even a few decades ago.

As for gas companies giving gas to the poor. I started doing research on this issue awhile back.

Gas is a regulated utility.
As a regulated utility, both the amount and the methods of giving heating to the poor is regulated.

The gas companies can't just start giving free heating to more poor because they are a regulated utility.

I think that it is actually illegal for the gas company to give fuel directly to the poor ... without approval of the regulators.

The reason for this is that the regulators don't want the utilities to play the ends against the middle.

Were the utilities to give segments of the population special treatment, there would end up being charges that they were buying political favoritism.

I agree in part with this logic. Rather than having the utilities give directly to the poor, they should give to a third party which then gives heat assistance.

To repeat ... Questar is regulated. The regulators determine the amount of money given to the poor. This money has to go through a third party.

Your complaint that Questar burdens third party charities is an intentional illusion created by the regulation.

Using an intentional illusion created in a highly regulated utility to bitch about the free market is completely off base.

BTW: I think if you researched this issue, you would find that the amount of heat assistence given to the poor in the US is quite astounding.

In the current system, the people who are really struggling are in the lower middle class (the ones who don't get the assistence, but pay for it in their rates). Raising rates to give more free fuel to polygamous wives magnifies the hurt focused on the lower middle class.

Regardless, the big problem we have in the US is related to sprawl. Look at the sprawl in Provo, Salt Lake and the rest of the US. The amount of fuel consumed by Americans is out of control. All of these massive homes are competing for a scarce resource.

Since our problems is that our population is sprawling to the point that we exhaust resources, it seems that we eventually will have to have a way of rationing the resources. This rationing is going to be extremely difficult. The need for rationing isn't the result of corporate greed at the utilities by increased consumption created by sprawl.

Bryan said...

Oh, I agree about the sprawl.

Jim Cunsler (sp?) did a great piece on NPR about how Suburban centers aren't sustainable and that as soon as 50 years from now we won't have the resources to keep them.

I think he also wrote a book about it.

And this was just sort of my rant based on that letter I got. I'll be the first to admit I didn't do much research on this. I was at work and bored out of my mind.