Alleviating the Home Heating Oil Crisis
by Mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani
New Yorkers-both in the City and throughout the State-have for years paid the highest home heating oil prices in the nation. But this year, due largely to market manipulations by the OPEC monopoly, costs that were already too high have shot through the roof. On January 1st, the retail price of home heating oil in New York averaged only 72 cents per gallon. Now in many parts of the state, the price has topped $2.50 per gallon-more than triple what it was just six weeks ago. This dramatic price leap means that the average New Yorker using home heating oil can expect to pay an extra $250 to $350 this winter to heat his or her home.
Clearly, people are being hurt. Even people willing and able to pay the high prices often find that there's no oil for them to buy, because of a critical shortage that's leaving oil tanks dry throughout the region. The crisis is even worse upstate where average temperatures are colder than in the metropolitan area.
It's not just homeowners who are suffering. Rental buildings use heating oil too, and when landlords see their costs triple in the space of six weeks, they will pass those cost increases on to tenants in the form of rent increases. The City is also being directly hurt by this and hit very hard. The Housing Authority, for example, spent $4 million over the last six days alone just to heat its units. And that's not counting the costs to other City agencies and facilities, or to the damage done to our economy by rapidly spiraling energy costs.
The federal government can help ease this crisis. However, so far, the Clinton administration has refused adamantly refused to do so.
The United States maintains a Strategic Petroleum Reserve of almost 600 million barrels of oil, one of the purposes of which is to protect Americans from the kind of market manipulation and artificial shortages that OPEC is now creating. OPEC is creating these shortages in order to create huge profits for OPEC, profits that's taken right from the pockets of New Yorkers and other Americans. Senator Chuck Schumer, Congressman Sherry Boehlert, Congresswoman Sue Kelly and many other Representatives from the Northeast have strongly urged President Clinton to make available a portion of the Strategic Petroleum Reserve. Estimates indicate that releasing just 2% of the reserves would alleviate the shortage, break OPEC's stranglehold, and-what's most important-drive down prices.
But on Wednesday, Energy Secretary Bill Richardson ruled out the use of any portion of our oil reserves. Instead, he said he'd make available federal funds to help low-income people buy oil, but the amount of money earmarked for New York will have little or no impact.
Yesterday, I sent a letter to President Clinton urging him to reverse this decision and to reverse it now, before things get much worse. I hope that the President-a man who often says, "I feel your pain"-- will feel the very real pain that New Yorkers are suffering right now and do something about it by releasing some of the Strategic Petroleum Reserve.
There's a lot of winter left, and a lot of cold weather to come. New Yorkers, and people throughout the Northeast, shouldn't have to choose between going without heat, or paying unjustifiably high prices-especially when there's an obvious remedy so near at hand.
This is Rudy Giuliani.