Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Thoughts for the middle of the week

Hump day, the middle of the week, it’s Wednesday. The weather sure did take an interesting turn. We like the low humidity; we don’t like the cooling temperatures. Of course we expect the weather to get colder as, after all, we are in the bottom half of September. But I’m not happy at having to start thinking of giving up my short sleeves for another season.

This day brings along some random thoughts of news items that affect us, or have the potential of affecting us.

First, I’m not sure I’m happy with my Junior Senator today. News reports indicate she’s has joined a coalition of 20 Republicans and Democrats to support a measure that would give states the option of allowing off-shore oil drilling rather than having the federal government make the call. It would appear that Sen. Susan Collins is being consistent with her re-election bid advertisements saying she’s in favor of working with the Democrats in a bipartisan manner. She also has said she opposes drilling off the Maine coast and this would be one way for the state to protect the area.

This country must break away from its dependence on foreign oil for its existence. I agree that we need to develop alternative sources of energy but those alternatives are years away from being developed, years away from conversion to new sources. It will also take years to get new refineries to process our own oil, too, but the rest of the infrastructure is in place to use it as it gets refined. And the Canadians are already getting oil in Canadian waters just north of Maine. It would appear that Sen. Collins is making a political decision rather than a rational one to help Mainers. This could hurt her a little in November.

Second, since Hurricane Ike headed for the Texas coast, gas prices in Maine have been on a roller coaster ride. I first noticed the changes last Friday when I drove past a small station on Route 1 in Scarborough near the I-295 Connector. I was heading to Portland on an errand and just happened to notice the price at the station: $3.55.6/gal. I got into the habit of checking this station’s prices many years ago when it sold about the lowest priced gasoline in the area.

As is my habit, a half hour or 45 minutes after I passed, I returned and again glanced at the price. Holy Cow! In less than an hour it had jumped to $3.69.9/gal. That was an unbelievable hike. When I got home that day, I began checking the news on the Internet. Prices were spiking in much of the country as the word had come out that the refineries in the Houston/Galveston area of Texas were flooding and out of commission.

Some prices in Maine were already back over four dollars a gallon and they were rising dramatically throughout the state. They seem to be heading back down now. Yesterday on my way to my Senior Fitness session, the price at that Scarborough station had dropped to $3.67.9. On my way home, the price had dropped again to $3.59.9/gal. On the futures market the price of oil has been dropping equally as dramatically for the last few days and that’s continued in spite of Ike. I haven’t been out since I got home yesterday, so I haven’t gone by the station to see where that price is today.

And third,the casino wars are about to heat up. A Las Vegas casino group, The Olympia Group (not to be confused with the local Olympia Construction preparing to rebuild the Maine State Pier complex in Portland), has taken over the push for a major casino in Oxford County. We can’t name the place yet as it hasn’t been determined. The proponents of that casino want it to go way beyond a slots palace and offer all kinds of gambling. There is one provision in the referendum question facing statewide voters in November that might cause some confusion in Scarborough where Scarborough Downs and the Cabela store want to establish their own slot palace.

The part that could cause the problem is a provision in the statewide referendum that prohibits any other new slot palace for ten years. I haven’t seen anything that says what would happen to the Scarborough proposal if voters approve that referendum. Meanwhile, the Scarborough group has collected enough signatures to have their proposal put on the November local ballot. Town voters have already voted against the Downs development in a previous election. I agree with the Portland Press Herald’s editorial this morning that calls for the Scarborough defeat. You can read it on I would support the defeat of the Oxford County proposal, too.

We’ll have more on these proposals and other election stuff as the heat up continues toward the November chance for us to express our views.


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