Senate cuts funds for home heating oil assistance

At the same time as it dropped an amendment to a defense authorization bill which would have permitted drilling for oil in the Alaska National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR), the Senate also removed “an unrelated provision appropriating $2 billion to the Low-income Home Energy Assistance Program — funds that are badly needed to help low-income families pay heating bills, which are rising dramatically this winter because of sharp increases in energy prices.”

[C]onservative Republican Sen. Charles Grassley told the American Petroleum Institute, the Independent Petroleum Association of America and the Natural Gas Supply Association: “You have a responsibility to use these record profits to invest in more exploration, production, and refining capacity to increase the supply of petroleum products. … Beyond that, you have a responsibility to help less fortunate Americans cope with the high cost of heating fuels.” Sen. Grassley suggested that it is reasonable to expect companies “with 50, 75 or 100 percent growth in earnings this quarter to contribute a mere 10 percent of those profits” to fuel-fund programs that supplement the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program. “This is especially true,” he wrote, “in the case of some of the largest integrated oil and gas companies that currently have tens of billions of dollars in cash on hand.”

Now the only help for poor families in the Northeast comes from CITGO, a subsidiary of the Venezuelan Oil Company, in a program to sell “12 million gallons of heating oil at 40% below market prices to needy residents in Boston and the Bronx,” started at the behest of Venezuela President Hugo Chavez, in his public relations war with the Bush Administration. Chavez has “claimed that President George W. Bush is planning an invasion to gain control over Venezuela’s oil reserves, the largest outside The Middle East,” while the Bush Administration has seemed hell-bent on repeating with Venezuela mistakes that have already been made with Cuba.

CITGO also sells gasoline. And has suggested the people find stations and “help [their] Northeast neighbors by supporting Citgo on [their] holiday drive.”

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