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Gas prices will be stoked by Katrina

Gas station on Catalina Island at Avalon off the coast of Southern California, Friday, Aug. 26, 2005.

Do you think Chimpy is sweating at all about this? If he isn’t, you know Congress is, since they all have to come up for re-election. How’s Dumbya going to deal? Blame it all on Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez (see below for some serious irony)?

Retail gas prices hit yet another record high over the past two weeks and could go even higher before the traditional post-Labor Day driving decline ends demands pressure, according to a nationwide survey. While gas prices usually peak in August, any major disruption to oil production facilities in the Gulf of Mexico caused by Hurricane Katrina could keep prices high even longer. The average price for all three grades rose nearly 13 cents to $2.65 in the two weeks ending Aug. 26, said Trilby Lundberg, who publishes the semimonthly Lundberg Survey of 7,000 gas stations around the country. The figures were not adjusted for inflation.

The level of damage caused by Katrina may extend the price peak beyond Labor Day. Already, some production capacity has been idled because oil companies have evacuated personnel in the area.

Katrina is `perfect storm’ to push up energy prices.

With crude oil prices already near record levels, Hurricane Katrina targeted the heart of America’s oil and refinery operations Sunday, shutting down an estimated 1 million barrels of refining capacity and sharply curbing offshore production in the region.

It is an area crucial to the nation’s energy infrastructure — offshore oil and gas production, import terminals, pipeline networks and numerous refining operations throughout southern Louisiana and Mississippi.

The impact was immediate Sunday night when electronic trading resumed on the New York Mercantile Exchange, as crude oil futures spiked $4.50 per barrel, putting the cost above $70 for the first time since oil began trading there in 1983.

…Last September, Hurricane Ivan also swept across the region causing heavy damage and reducing the region’s output for months. Katrina’s winds were fiercer.

Oil companies evacuated workers and shut down more than 600,000 barrels of daily production in the Gulf. Refiners closed down more than 1 million barrels of refining output by Sunday, but that amount could be higher because not every producer reports data, said Peter Beutel, an oil analyst with Cameron Hanover.

“This is the big one,” he said. “This is unmitigated, bad news for consumers.”

…”If this thing knocks out significant quantities of refining capacity … we’re going to be in deep, dark trouble,” said Ed Silliere, vice president of risk management at Energy Merchant LLC in New York.


House Blender Paul sent me;=arIc3kolAI2Q&refer;=latin_america#”>this link, saying: “This gives new meaning to the term “US AID’.” The news should give both Pat Robertson and all the Hugo Chavez-bashers painful wedgies: “;=arIc3kolAI2Q&refer;=latin_america#”>Venezuela Offers Heating Oil to U.S. Poor as Winter Approaches.”

Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez offered heating oil to poor communities in the U.S. to bypass the middlemen he claims inflate prices.

Chavez, 51, made the offer during his weekly television broadcast, “Alo Presidente.” Chavez said 140 communities or groups have requested energy aid from the South American country since Chavez said earlier this week that Venezuela could help poor families in the U.S.

“We want to help the poorest communities in the U.S.,” Chavez said. “There are people who die from the cold in winter in the U.S.”

Citgo Petroleum Corp., the U.S. unit of Petroleos de Venezuela SA, may coordinate distribution, Energy and Oil Minister Rafael Ramirez said. Citgo has eight refineries in the U.S., as well as 14,000 affiliated gasoline stations. Chavez and Ramirez didn’t say how much heating oil might be offered.

“There is poverty in the U.S.,” Chavez said. “People freeze to death, people starve to death.”

Chavez, who became president in 1999 after winning the presidency in a landslide, has repeatedly attacked multinational oil companies as one of the causes of rising energy prices. Venezuela, the world’s fifth-largest oil exporter, sends more than 60 percent of its 2 million barrels a day of oil exports to the U.S.

Chavez also said 150,000 Americans will be offered medical care to correct vision problems.

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Pam Spaulding

Pam Spaulding