The U.S. government today gave its feeble response to Hugo Chavez's latest headline-grabbing moment by announcing that the Department of Health and Human Services is releasing nearly 80 million dollars in additional funding for the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program or LIHEAP. (I can't find the link.) Alaska gets a whopping 1.43 million of that.
Lisa Murkowski, in a press release, makes one good point and one dumb one. The good one:
"As the price of heating fuel becomes more expensive, some people may resort to unsafe methods to heat their homes.... These methods of heating are not only fire hazards, but they also create the risk of carbon monoxide poisoning."The slightly less intelligent one:
"These funds will ensure that we keep Alaskans safe and warm during the upcoming cold seasons."Excuse me? At $2.75, which is what Nome Joint Utility just paid for diesel, $1.43 million gets 520,000 gallons of fuel. That's not so much going to get us through the winter.
All of this follows a recent announcement that Hugo Chavez is expanding his "From the Venezuelan heart to the U.S. hearths" program by having CITGO buy about 5 to 10 million gallons of fuel for rural Alaska natives.
Nome is now paying 31-cents a kilowatt hour for electricity, $3.99 for gas (I understand it's closer to $5 in Kotzebue), and who knows how much for heating oil. To both Mr. Chavez and Mr. Bush we say thank you but we also note it's too little, too late. The rapidly-developing consensus in Nome is that the price of energy is the most fundamental issue facing the community and the solution is only going to come from within the community.