Friday, September 02, 2005

Katrina: Connecticut Responds 2

Connecticut leaders and citizens are continuing to respond to the ongoing crisis sparked by Hurricane Katrina.

Relief Efforts

Businesses, government, schools and even political campaigns are doing what they can to support relief efforts.

A very positive story that has been happening all over the country involves the many thousands of college students who were displaced by Katrina. Colleges and universities all over the country are volunteering to take these students on at little or no extra charge. Connecticut schools are joining the bandwagon:

The University of Connecticut on Friday joined the four schools in the Connecticut State University system in offering to accept students from Connecticut displaced by the storm. Sacred Heart University in Bridgeport extended the offer to anyone from the Northeast.
...
Gov. M. Jodi Rell said she asked CSU's trustees to grant free tuition to students from Connecticut who were attending colleges affected by the hurricane. They would only need to pay room and board.
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Mitchell College in New London was opening its doors to any student who was affected by the hurricane. The college also said it would work with students on financial aid.
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State Rep. Donald Sherer, R-Stamford, the ranking Republican on the legislature's higher education committee, called several college officials on Thursday and asked them to get involved. He said it would be ideal to have schools across Connecticut waive their tuition so the students can commute to a nearby college and not miss a semester of education. (AP)

Colleges and universities will hopefully do all they can to support displaced students financially, including waiving tuition.

Hartford Public Schools will be accepting younger students displaced by the storm, as well.

Connecticut volunteers are training in local Red Cross centers, preparing to go to the affected areas as soon as next week.

Other organizations from around New England are doing what they can, as well.

Energy Costs

Energy costs are skyrocketing, most notably the cost of gasoline, which is above $3.00 in most parts of the state today. In Hartford this afternoon, I saw regular unleaded gasoline being sold for $3.39/gallon. The price has increased by as much as $0.75/gallon across the state.

Citizens are starting to complain about price gouging and profiteering. State leaders are trying to respond at both the national and state level:

On the Democratic side, U.S. Rep. John Larson said he would team with U.S. Rep. Rosa DeLauro to introduce a bill designed to prevent what he called profiteering by large oil companies before and after Hurricane Katrina hit the Gulf coast and damaged key refineries.
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"What's accounting for these spikes in price? Greed," Larson said.
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Attorney General Richard Blumenthal, whose office was fielding "hundreds" of complaints from citizens, said he would welcome congressional hearings on oil pricing and the operations of the New York Mercantile Exchange, where oil contracts are traded.
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Separately, Gov. M. Jodi Rell issued a statement Thursday expressing outrage at rising gas prices. She outlined plans for a meeting today with energy industry leaders to "get a handle on these absurd price spirals."

Rell is considering a temporary suspension of the gasoline sales or gross receipts taxes, as well as a possible ban on the practice of "zone pricing," which allows wholesalers to charge different prices in different areas of the state. (Moran)

Who is to blame for these price increases? Local retailers? Suppliers? Big oil companies? Oil traders? All of the above?

One thing is certain: if these high prices persist, the economy and those least able to pay will suffer greatly. If oil prices don't drop somewhat before winter, we will have a much worse problem on our hands.

The best thing to do right now is to limit unnecessary driving as much as possible to save gas. If you do have to drive, go a bit slower. It's worth noting that fuel efficiency drops after about 55mph or so. I noticed that a lot of people were actually going the speed limit or below on I-91 today: that's a good first step. It's also a sign that people are paying serious attention.

Sources
Conn. schools offer classes to students displaced by hurricane." Associated Press 2 September, 2005.

Moran, John and Gosselin, Kenneth. Gas Prices Spark Outrage." Hartford Courant 2 September, 2005.

8 comments:

BDRubenstein888 said...

With the gas comoany gouging us there is no finer reason to once again have a oil and gas " windfall profits tax" and increase the regulatory powers of the governemnts( state and federal) over the oil and gas companies.

I bet Jodie Rell wrings her hands over the oil prices but does very little...

This could be a huge defining issue for Democrats running for governor

Aldon Hynes said...

I would encourage people interested in fuel prices to read Energy Outlook, a great blog by a guy from Greenwich that really understands the energy market.

He talks a lot about how refinery output has been maxed out for a while and if we look at supply and demand, it isn't surprising to see that with 10% of refinery output shutdown we would have some serious problems.

I seem to recall that people ahven't been building new refineries. No one wants a refinery in their backyard. I am curious, however, about how BioDiesel could fit into the equation, and I would encourage people to look at

Should we be doing more to promote BioDiesel in our state? I believe we should be.

Aldon Hynes said...

P.S. We should also give Mayor Malloy's campaign proper recognition. They have now added links to the Red Cross as well as to Stamford based AmeriCares.

Whether you think Mayor Malloy or Mayor DeStefano would be a better leader for our state, I hope you join with all of us in finding ways to help with the crisis in Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama.

Quinn said...

All year oil prices have been increasing largely due to speculation, but also during the summer due to great demand.

Now we are experiencing a short-term supply shock. This has nothing to do with "profittering" but rather that there is much less gas available with the Gulf Coast oil operations knocked out. What little oil is available for sale commands a higher price by every link in the supply chain, including the major distributors and the local stations. Ultimately this higher price is paid by the consumer, not because of greed, but because of the absolute most basic tenet of economics: supply and demand.

Biodiesel, meanwhile, is a red herring to this issue. Biodiesel is part of a long-term solution. It can do absolutely nothing to lessen the effects of a short-term supply shock. Even if the states shipping turned immediately over to biodiesel, a complete impossibility, it would do nothing to allieviate the shortage for the vast majority of the state's citzens who drive cars that consume unleaded gasoline.

MikeCT said...

Heartless quote of the day (let them eat mud):
“It makes no sense to spend billions of dollars to rebuild a city that’s seven feet under sea level.”
House Speaker Dennis Hastert

Aldon Hynes said...

Quinn,

In terms of dealing with the short term disruption caused by the supply shock, biodiesel is not especially promising. However, I believe you are a bit off on some of your statements.

According to the National BioDiesel Board, the current production capabilities for BioDiesel were approximately 110 million gallons per year. However, the Oleo Chemical production is an additional 110 million gallons per year. This can easily be converted to biodiesel production. While this would only account for approximately 1% of the shortfall expected as a result of the refinery shortfall, in a situation of significant supply demand imbalance, this can be important.

In addition, while it has been twenty years since I did work in refinery modelling, my recollection is that refineries can fairly easily shift their mix of production from one form, such as diesel to another form, such as unleaded.

Granted a 1% increase in supply wouldn't do a lot to balance the supply demand ratio, looking at the larger issue of long term production is significant. Again, the National Biodiesel Board reports that the biodiesel capacity is largely modular and can be doubled or tripled in a reasonable time frame of less than 12 months.

Another consideration in biodiesel production is that biodiesel does not contain sulfer and faces much less community resistence in terms of building refineries and in the larger picture, the overall refinery production is the big issue.

So, I question the assertion that biodiesel is a 'red herring'. It has a smaller impact on the immediate problem but has the potential to have a much larger impact on the bigger picture.

DeanFan84 said...

[cross-posted at BlogforCT.]

Hi All!

I just want everyone to know that that the Red Cross was NEVER allowed into New Orleans.

Unbelievably, the knucklehead strategy was to starve out those who had yet to evacuate. (Only the buses never came.) I know this is incredible, with the news channels full of accounts of people dropping DEAD from lack of food and water. But it comes from the Red Cross's own website.

http://www.redcross.org/faq/0,1096,0_682_4524,00.html

You can read more about this travesty here at dailykos:

http://www.dailykos.com/story/2005/9/2/2125/04978

I'm giving my money through the Salvation Army, or through Second Harvest. And needless to say, I am exceedingly angry, ashamed, and disillusioned with my government.

MikeCT said...

The ConnecticutBlog has been providing detailed, daily comments on the failure and disinterest of the Bush administration in the crisis in the Southeast.