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Gas prices high for six months; Citizens: conserve energy

Energy Secretary Samuel Bodman says we're in for six months of high gas prices as production levels reduced by both Hurricane Rita and Katrina return to normal:

"We're going to go through a very challenging time the next six months, is my guess," Bodman said. "Most of us have viewed energy availability as a kind of right of citizenship," he said, and might have to rethink that as refineries are restarted, pipelines repaired and natural gas processing resumed. "Both in terms of gasoline availability and (prices of) natural gas and heating oil, we're going to have some problems."

Put on your sweater, Citizen, because Bodman unveiled his plan today:

The administration and the Alliance to Save Energy launched an energy efficiency campaign on Monday that calls on homeowners and businesses to "use energy more wisely" heading into the winter heating season in an effort to reduce demand on the struggling energy sector...
The administration is looking to consumers and businesses to take a number of first "easy, sensible steps" such as weatherizing their homes and lowering their thermostats to see how effective such efforts can be in reducing energy demand.
"We're going to do our very best first to see what we can accomplish by a reduction in demand for energy which this is all about...we hope that that will affect prices," Bodman said.
The administration is prepared to tap national oil and heating reserves if the market illustrates the need for additional supplies, Bodman said.

BTW, the HuffPost entitles their link to the USAToday story "Echoes Of Jimmy Carter... Bush Admin. Urges Energy Conservation, Warns Of Energy Shortages".
And, the official site associated with this effort is It just uses flash and not plain HTML, so I declined to view it.
See also "Oil Prices Retreat As Refinery Reopens":

Energy futures retreated Monday after power was restored to a large refinery in Texas and the Bush administration said it was, in principle, prepared to tap an emergency supply of heating oil in the Northeast.
But analysts said they did not expect fuel prices to fall sharply anytime soon because of the persistent supply constraints caused by back-to-back hurricanes.
In the aftermath of Katrina and Rita, a dozen refineries along the Gulf Coast remain closed, crimping gasoline and heating-oil production, and oil and natural gas output is far below normal levels. Under the circumstances, brokers said the decline in energy futures on Monday should not be seen as the start of a significant downtrend and they warned it could be merely a pause in a broader uptrend.
"I think it's more likely that this is probably a consolidation before the next move higher," said broker Tom Bentz of BNP Paribas Commodity Futures...

Mayors re-whine about FEMA response to Rita

The Boston Globe article "Texas, La. officials give FEMA mixed reviews" is longer than the K-R article discussed in "Mayors, lawyer whine about FEMA response to Rita", but it has some of the same mayors reiterating their whining about FEMA, as well as that agency once again offering its side of the story. And, as with the other article, it turns out that there's some confusion over that agency's role. Let's consider this thread:

First, hospital patients were airlifted out of Beaumont hours later than they expected, and by then some patients were weak and vomiting at the airport, said Judge Carl Griffith of Jefferson County, which encompasses the city...
Griffith, the chief elected official in Jefferson County, called this week for a presidential commission to investigate the emergency responses of federal, state, and local agencies, and investigate how to improve their performance in the future. He recommended that FEMA be elevated to a Cabinet department whose secretary would have direct access to the president.
''They're being called on to be the 911 of America in disasters," Griffith said. ''They've got a process that's very bad. And they don't have the resources to deliver the job tasks that they're given."
...Even Griffith, one of FEMA's most ardent critics, acknowledged that it was not FEMA's job to airlift patients out of Beaumont before the storm, but he said his proposed commission should determine whose job it should have been.
After a storm, local governments are supposed to file requests for aid with state officials, who then turn them over to FEMA.
''To point the finger at FEMA is not fair," said Mayor Glenn Johnson of Port Neches. ''We don't know where the breakdown is."

Mayors, lawyer whine about FEMA response to Rita

The Knight Ridder article "FEMA red tape persists after Rita, Texans say" doesn't make me very sympathetic to the Texans quoted. Perhaps that's me, or maybe it's one kind of media bias or another, or maybe not:

Sulphur, La., lawyer Jim Hopkins said he was told that the wait for a temporary roof from FEMA was two weeks.
"This isn't Phoenix, Arizona," Hopkins said. "It's going to rain within two weeks."

I have to ask: why can't you make temporary repairs yourself?

[...a mayor wants generators, gets a portable shower instead...]
David Passey, FEMA spokesman in Texas, yesterday defended the agency's efforts.
"Part of the whole week has been an understanding process for many of these mayors - understanding how the emergency-management system works," he said.
Requests go to the state and then to the federal government, he said, and some requests for generators may not have been passed to FEMA.
In addition, he said, before installing a generator, a team must make sure that the building is safe and that the generators are appropriate.
The mayors of Nederland, Port Arthur and Port Neches, all in Jefferson County, said they had encountered too much bureaucracy while trying to obtain basic supplies from FEMA...

It sounds like at least two things could have been done to avoid some of this:
1. Better computerization of requests and making sure possible requests are in a database somewhere and have been approved or similar,
2. Making local officials do their homework instead of finding out how things work only when they need to know.
The first might not be possible without a billion-dollar program to update FEMA's computers, but you never know how little it might cost.
The last could be almost free, although one can see the possibility of someone proposing a multi-billion dollar awareness campaign, and that would need to be guarded against.
Another needed program might be to teach some people about self-reliance and how the residents of their area did things a century ago.
See also the Boston Globe article discussed in "Mayors re-whine about FEMA response to Rita". From the article itself:

...Griffith protested that FEMA-supplied generators sat unused at the Ford Park arena in Beaumont for several days. The city of Nederland could not get a generator for its emergency operations center.
''We didn't get the damn thing," said Nederland Mayor Dick Nugent, who said the city had to buy four generators to power the emergency center and other services after his request to federal officials did not come through...

Houston evac not as smooth as hoped

The Houston Chronicle goes a bit overboard with the title to "Lessons come at high cost: 107 lives". It's about the evac of Houston before Hurricane Rita:

...But there was no plan for contraflow lanes, the mayor said. So, the city asked Gov. Rick Perry's staff in the middle of the night to get contraflow lanes working, and the effort got under way immediately after that.
Texas Homeland Security Director Steve McCraw said the state immediately responded to White's 6 a.m. Thursday request to open all Interstate 45 lanes to outbound traffic, but he admitted the effort could have been executed more efficiently. Hours elapsed as 700 troopers were brought in to close entrance ramps on the southbound lanes and other measures were taken to alter traffic flow.
Traffic on I-45 North already was gridlocked when they opened all lanes to northbound traffic. Interstate 10 was completely opened for outbound traffic several hours later...

Some experts rightly question their stretching to make some cases due to the evacuation.

VRWC on Texas vs. Louisiana response

The following is apparently being sent around via email, and was probably introduced into the system by either VRWC member #37 or #82; I haven't verified that yet. For future reference, it's included below. Reactions from the right, from the left.

2 States, 22 Observations Things I have noticed while watching media coverage of the recent hurricanes.
1. Texas: Productive industrious state run by Republicans.
Louisiana: Government dependent welfare state run by Democrats.
2. Texas: Residents take responsibility to protect and evacuate themselves.
Louisiana: Residents wait for government to protect and evacuate them.
3. Texas: Local and state officials take responsibility for protecting their citizens and property.
Louisiana: Local and state officials blame federal government for not protecting their citizens and property.
4. Texas: Command and control remains in place to preserve order.
Louisiana: Command and control collapses allowing lawlessness.
5. Texas: Law enforcement officers remain on duty to protect city.
Louisiana: Law enforcement officers desert their posts to protect themselves.
6. Texas: Local police watch for looting.
Louisiana: Local police participate in looting.
7. Texas: Law and order remains in control, 8 looters tried it, 8 looters arrested.
Louisiana: Anarchy and lawlessness breaks out, looters take over city, no arrests, criminals with guns have to be shot by federal troops.
8. Texas: Considerable damage caused by hurricane.
Louisiana: Considerable damage caused by looters.
9. Texas: Flood barriers hold preventing cities from flooding.
Louisiana: Flood barriers fail due to lack of maintenance allowing city to flood.
10. Texas: Orderly evacuation away from threatened areas, few remain.
Louisiana: 25,000 fail to evacuate, are relocated to another flooded area.
11. Texas: Citizens evacuate with personal 3 day supply of food and water.
Louisiana: Citizens fail to evacuate with 3 day supply of food and water, do without it for the next 4 days.
12. Texas: FEMA brings in tons of food and water for evacuees. State officials provide accessible distribution points.
Louisiana: FEMA brings in tons of food and water for evacuees. State officials prevent citizens from reaching distribution points and vice versa.
13. Louisiana: Media focuses on poor blacks in need of assistance, blames Bush.
Texas: Media can't find poor blacks in need of assistance, looking for something else to blame on Bush.
14. Texas: Coastal cities suffer some infrastructure damage, Mayors tell residents to stay away until ready for repopulation, no interference from federal officials.
Louisiana: New Orleans is destroyed, Mayor asks residents to return home as another hurricane approaches, has to be overruled by federal officials.
15. Louisiana: Over 400 killed by storm, flooding and crime.
Texas: 24 killed in bus accident on highway during evacuation, no storm related deaths.
16. Texas: Jailed prisoners are relocated to other detention facilities outside the storm area.
Louisiana: Jailed prisoners are set free to prey on city shops, residents, and homes.
17. Texas: Local and state officials work with FEMA and Red Cross in recovery operations.
Louisiana: Local and state officials obstruct FEMA and Red Cross from aiding in recovery operations.
18. Texas: Local and state officials demonstrate leadership in managing disaster areas.
Louisiana: Local and state officials fail to demonstrate leadership, require federal government to manage disaster areas.
19. Texas: Fuel deliveries can't keep up with demand, some run out of gas on highway, need help from fuel tankers before storm arrives.
Louisiana: Motorists wait till storm hits and electrical power fails. Cars run out of gas at gas stations that can't pump gas. Gas in underground tanks mixes with flood waters.
20. Texas: Mayors move citizens out of danger.
Louisiana: Mayor moves himself and family to Dallas.
21. Texas: Mayors continue public service announcements and updates on television with Governor's backing and support.
Louisiana: Mayor cusses, governor cries, senator threatens president with violence on television, none of them have a clue what went wrong or who's responsible.
22. Louisiana: Democratic Senator says FEMA was slow in responding to 911 calls from Louisiana citizens.
Texas: Republican Senator says "when you call 911, the phone doesn't ring in Washington, it rings here at the local responders".
What if state and local elected officials were forced to depend on themselves and their own resources instead of calling for help from the federal government? Texas cities would be back up and running in a few days. Louisiana cities would still be under water next month. Republicans call for action, Democrats call for help. What party will you be voting for in the next election?

Plant safe; Tabasco sauce to "keep flowing"

Good news for you spiceheads, as the McIlhenny Co. - purveyors of Tabasco sauce - reports that their plant was safe from Hurricane Rita's floods.
The plant is located on Avery "Island":

Salt domes are the tips of underground mountains of salt. In south Louisiana, they're usually surrounded by land rather than water. But for a while, Avery Island was surrounded by water.
"Ninety-five percent or more was above water," McIlhenny said. "We're the highest point on the Gulf Coast between Brownsville, Texas, and Key Largo, Florida, because of the salt dome."

The Rita Commission?

Some are complaining about FEMA's response to Hurricane Rita. A Houston evacuee center - originally for Katrina victims - reopened today, but was shortly shut down when some of the hundreds in line began fainting from the heat (about 90 degrees).

[FEMA spokesman Justin] Dombrowski said FEMA is asking refugees who do not need help right away to wait a few days. He also encouraged refugees to register with FEMA by telephone or the Internet.
Local officials, including Port Arthur Mayor Oscar Ortiz and Jefferson County Judge Carl Griffith, whose county includes Beaumont, said FEMA's response has been inadequate.
Griffith said he has asked [Texas Governor Rick] Perry to set up a commission to study the emergency response to Rita. Congress is holding hearings this week on the federal government's response to Katrina.
FEMA spokesman Ross Fredenburg in Austin said communications between Austin and rural East Texas have been troubled, in part because of power problems. But he said FEMA had set up 27 distribution points in 27 southeastern Texas cities.
"I don't know what could have been done better since the materials were in place before the hurricane," Fredenburg said. "We're doing everything we can to get water and ice to whomever remains."
About 432,000 customers were without power in Texas on Wednesday.
To get the power back on in Southeast Texas, Perry asked the U.S. Department of Energy to sign a waiver allowing Entergy to plug into CenterPoint Energy's power source on the state's main electric grid and transmit it from Houston into the affected areas.
Entergy is not usually hooked up to Texas' main grid, its whole service area loses power when one part sustains significant damage.
Once the temporary lines are in place, much of Entergy's service area will regain power immediately, said Paul Hudson, chairman of the state's Public Utility Commission.
But it could take three to four weeks to restore power in the hardest hit areas, where nearly all transmission lines are down and homes are so damaged they can't safely receive electricity, Hudson said.

Odd: Hurricane Rita caused massive oil rig damage

FT reports in "Rita causes record damage to oil rigs" that:

Hurricane Rita has caused more damage to oil rigs than any other storm in history and will force companies to delay drilling for oil in the US and as far away as the Middle East, initial damage assessments show...
Ken Sill of Credit Suisse First Boston said: "Early reports indicate numerous rigs are missing, destroyed or have suffered serious damage and several companies have yet to report. Rita may set an all-time record."
The US Coast Guard said nine semisubmersible rigs had broken free from their moorings and were adrift...
Initial reports from companies are ominous. Global Santa Fe reported it could not find two of its rigs. Rowan Companies reported four rigs damaged, with two having moved, one losing its "legs" and the fourth presumed sunk. Noble has four rigs adrift, with two run aground one into a ChevronTexaco platform.

But, just yesterday came this NYT report:

there was little sign of damage to the offshore infrastructure, according to the United States Coast Guard, whose initial survey found only two damaged drilling platforms and no traces of oil spills.

Gosh, that's odd.

Gulf Coast energy production to restart

From "Storms Cast Spotlight on Energy's New Reality":

...Still, on the Texas coast, the focus through the weekend was on how long it would take to restart the 16 refineries that were shut down by the storm.
Those refineries can process 4 million barrels of oil a day, or 23 percent of the country's total capacity, according to the Energy Department. Another four refineries, accounting for 5 percent of capacity, are undergoing repair after the damage caused by Hurricane Katrina.
Also, there was little sign of damage to the offshore infrastructure, according to the United States Coast Guard, whose initial survey found only two damaged drilling platforms and no traces of oil spills. By contrast, Hurricane Katrina destroyed about 50 small facilities and damaged a handful of major platforms.
Even if the damage from the latest storm proves to be light, oil production from the Gulf of Mexico is likely to be months away from returning to its normal level. Oil companies evacuated 80 percent of all the manned platforms operating in the gulf in anticipation of Hurricane Rita and shut down the region's oil production, about 1.5 million barrels a day...

Blanco channels Heloise: mark yourself with indelible ink

In the interests of fairness, I'm going to assume she was trying to be as ominous as possible in an attempt to do good and wasn't just being an idiot. Refering to those who are staying behind to ride out Hurricane Rita, she said:

"Perhaps they should write their Social Security numbers on their arms with indelible ink."

Of course, she might have gotten the idea somewhere else. From Sep. 6's "Magic Marker Strategy" (also here):

Instead of relying on a "Good Samaritan" policy - the fantasy in New Orleans that everyone would take care of the neighbors - the Virginia rescue workers go door to door. If people resist the plea to leave, Mr. Judkins told The Daily Press in Newport News, rescue workers give them Magic Markers and ask them to write their Social Security numbers on their body parts so they can be identified.
"It's cold, but it's effective," Mr. Judkins explained.


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