Tuesday, October 25, 2005

Special Session: Heating Assistance Passes

That was the easy one. The legislature unanimously passed an energy assistance bill today designed to help offset rising heating oil and natural gas prices. Some of the bill's highlights:

  • ...a sales tax holiday from Nov. 25 to April 1, 2006, on weatherizing products, energy-efficient home heating equipment and windows

  • ...$23.8 million to expand a state energy assistance program for needy families, providing an additional $200 per family during the heating season to help pay for natural gas, oil or other fuels.

  • In addition to financial assistance, the legislation would create low interest loans for eligible homeowners to improve the energy efficiency of their homes.

  • The bill would also create a Home Heating Oil Planning Council to address home heating issues and state policies

  • [The] Office of Policy and Management is required to monitor pricing. There's a provision in the bill that doubles civil penalties for price gouging.


The last provision is especially needed.

Gov. Rell is expected to pass the bill. I believe that most of the money will be coming from the state's projected budget surplus. This is as good a use of that money as any, at this point. If this week is any indication, we're in for a lousy winter.

The legislature still has to deal with privitization of state services and campaign finance reform. There's no word on when either of those will come to a vote.

"Lawmakers pass bill to address high heating costs." Associated Press 25 October, 2005.


Anonymous said...

If OPM finds one real case of price gauging, I will be shocked. There is NO price gauging going on right now.

Gas stations and oil dealers are getting squeezed because of the higher cost of raw materials...they simple pass these commodity prices onto consumers. Competition makes sure that any individual gas station or oil company cannot "gauge".

It's political pandering, because it is easy to hate gas stations who raise such a visible price...but remember that these guys make 2-3% margin.

The centralized oil companys are making a bundle right now, it is true. But did anyone complain when the price of oil was low and their profits impacted negatively?

Anonymous said...

Can anyone offer an intelligible definition of price gouging? With gas stations and posted prices on every corner, how can prices be set other than by market forces? The State has no ability to control the international price of oil and the victims of this upside down economic policy will be some poor gas station or independent oil dealer who is too busy trying to make a living to maintain all the documentation needed to ward off publicity fueled politicians that want to pretend they are actually doing something. Richard Nixon proved that price controls don't work, and ultimately will lead to shortages.

nedweenie said...

And even though the poor need help, what about the thousands who do not receive government assistance who will still not be able to upgrade their home's energy efficiency? Saving 6% is grand, but I doubt it will have any real effect. Many of us in old leaky homes can't afford the base cost of new windows, etc. And we'd be "ineligible" for those loans due to making a somewhat decent living. So the tax waiver and loan legislation just makes me shrug and think about that grey area population between the well off & abjectly poor who constantly get screwed.

Genghis Conn said...


I'm in that "gray area" category you describe. My house is somewhat older (1955) and leaks like a sieve, and I probably fall just this side of the limit income-wise.

However, I wouldn't ever want the government to help me pay for upgrades. I can save money and do that myself in a few years. For now I can wear a sweater and turn the heat down a little.

BDRubenstein888 said...

There should be a federal and state "windfall profits tax" on the oil companies...the state should set up a cabinent level post for the free or nearly free distribution of home heating oil and gas for the poorest of the poor..the cost for setup and distribution to be born by a state windfall profits tax on the oil and gas companies.

Quinn said...

A windfall profits tax would do nothing because no companies in Connecticut are making windfall prices. Because supply is tight, local distributors pay more to buy supplies themselves. This cost is passed on to the consumer, leading to higher prices for us, but local distributors are still making the same profit margin. The only people making profit are the massive multinationals and nations like Saudi Arabia. Since neither are based in CT, it is impossible to tax them.

The problem here is that consumers only see their half of the supply-demand paradigm. "Oh, prices have increased, that must mean that gas stations are making absurb profit!" No. Because the supply is forcing gas stations and oil suppliers to raise their prices. Its not like they get it from thin air and then choose whatever price they feel like.

You should know better. It makes me so mad that politicians are trying to take advantage of the laypersons ignorance of free market economics, and enacting policies that will only lead to the ruin of the supply system. That won't help the consumer one bit.

stomv said...

It would be nice if they took some set of public heating assistance homes and performed energy audits on them, and followed it up with help improving the energy efficiency of their appliances, heating, etc.

So if somebody needs help heating their home, go in and see if some upgrades will save money. Not only will it save energy and save money for the person who needs help saving money -- but it will also save money for the taxpayers, who can then invest the savings in other folks who need heating assistance.

Spend money upgrading the homes of those who need heating assistance, and then they may not need heating assistance in the future -- and save energy in the mean time.

Anonymous said...

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Exxon Mobil Corp. on Thursday posted a quarterly profit of $9.9 billion, the largest in U.S. corporate history, as it raked in a bonanza from record oil and gas prices.