A Real Winter of Discontent
With the season's first snowfall hitting the Northeast last week, it is becoming apparent that Hurricanes Katrina and Rita did far more to the nation's energy equation than spoil Labor Day vacation drives. The storms upset the already precarious balance of the nation's supply and demand for fuel. So much Gulf of Mexico oil and natural gas production remains in disarray that even with a mild winter, Americans face a Big Chill: astronomical heating bills--on average, 38 percent higher than last year's record costs for natural gas and 21 percent higher for oil.
Triple threat. That means hundreds of closed factories and enormous hardship for low-income and working poor families, who can expect scant federal government help. And if bitter cold rides in on Mother Nature's coattails, extraordinary measures will be needed to keep energy flowing, particularly in the Northeast, as natural-gas shortages spill over into oil and electricity supplies. "We pray for warm weather. We have a prayer chain going," says Diane Munns, an Iowa regulator who is president of the National Association of Regulatory Utility Commissioners. "People are talking not just about high prices but actual shortages."
Out of options. Hundreds of factories will be similarly forced to lay off workers or freeze or cut wages because of high natural gas prices this winter, says the National Association of Manufacturers. Many large companies, like chemical giant Dow, have moved major operations overseas near cheaper fuel. But smaller domestic companies don't have that option. "In manufacturing, there's just one way to use less energy, and that's to make less widgets," says Paul Cicio, executive director of the Industrial Energy Consumers of America.
Industrial shutdowns are actually vital to the current energy market because they curb demand. Without them, prices would be even higher for consumers trying to heat homes.
I am flabbergasted that we have done so little and have so little invested in renewable, sustainable fuels.
via Scrutiny Hooligans