Tuesday, June 17, 2008

An oil dilemma

I wonder if anyone in Maine gets through a day without expressing something, probably concern, about the rising cost of energy. I know it’s on my mind quite often, and today at my senior fitness session it was a major topic of conversation.

It’s only mid-June and many people are wondering how they’re going to pay for next winter’s heating fuel already. I don’t know anything about the cost of propane, but one of our group heats his home with propane. He said three others in a neighborhood he lives in have jointly bought a pre-pay plan for their neighborhood. He said it was the company that he uses that suggested the four of them buy the plan together. That would give a 4-buyer volume price that is far lower than each buying an individual plan. Since I’m not knowledgeable of propane prices, I didn’t bother to ask.

The rest of us all use oil. Unfortunately as good an idea the joint plan for our companion is, we don’t even live in the same town, say nothing of the same neighborhood, so we couldn’t get a joint plan. I’m not sure of the neighborhood conditions where they live; but where I live has only one neighbor. I’ve seen a propane truck delivering there.

So I’m wrestling with a pre-buy oil plan. Those prices seem to change just about daily. But, I use about 800 gallons each heating season which means I’ve got to come up with 37-hundred to 4-thousand dollars. That’s a heap of money on a retirement income. Without the pre-buy, though, that cost could hit close to a thousand dollars for an individual delivery. It’s a dilemma I don’t know how most Mainers can resolve.

Heating oil isn’t the only energy problem facing us. The price of gasoline rises two or three times a week and is now pushing $4.10/gal. That was yesterday, though, so today it’s probably well over that. The cost of fuel has driven up the cost of just about everything that gets delivered. Can you think of anything you don’t grow yourself that doesn’t require delivery somewhere along the line? I can’t. As the cost of delivery rises so does the cost of buying things. It’s a vicious cycle.

Most of all these rising prices can be traced directly to the government, both federal and state. Many want to blame the President, but he’s not the one who refuses to allow this country from drilling for its own oil. Laws passed by the Democrat controlled Congress does that. Congress, and there are some Republicans that support the measures (You don’t have to think too far away to find some.) that prevent the beginning of ending the dependency on foreign oil. Our Congress wants to “study” the problem.

There is some indication that some relief may be heading our way. Saudi Arabia, a major oil supplier, is hinting it will increase production next month. There is one problem with that, though, we have no idea how much time it will take to start the costs on a downward trend here. When the OPEC nations hint an increase is coming, prices are raised within minutes. It takes weeks, months, maybe longer for those prices to come down. The Saudis also suggested that gas taxes be substantially lowered to help with the cost.

Speaking of taxes, there is a report by the Maine Heritage Policy Center that Maine is now the highest taxed state with 14.02% of our income now going to combine state, local, and federal taxes. The report says the growth of those taxes in Maine is nearly twice the average growth nationally.

Energy, and other costs, is continually on my mind, so you can expect more of this, possibly as soon as Thursday.


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