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Thursday, March 31, 2011

More studies needed

And the tax on heat has to go

After this little piece of economic news that could take a bite out of your wallet, maybe it's indeed time to take a serious look at which form of energy is cheaper for your home. CBC is reporting that your electricity costs are going to increase in the next few years.

Here's the link to the story:

Either way, looks like one of your necessities are going to be going up, all at a time when the Lower Churchill project is being touted as being a good thing to your wallet. I wonder do we still trust electricity to stay low in the future?

It appears that any home energy retrofit programming is going to be very busy in the coming years, that is, if you have one!

There is a definite need to have a national and provincial energy efficiency program that has constant and sustained programming and funding, something for which all parties in the country should be a part of and not just a single political party initiative.

It should also cross all income thresholds.

Just right now, this whole energy efficiency thing looks like it should be taken on an emergency perspective.

Again, to me, the tax on heat in the province, and the country for that matter, has got to go. Income levels are low amongst seniors and some income earners and electricity is being forecast as being unaffordable to most, as well is the cost of heating oil. Let';s take those tax dollars and leave in the hands of those who'll need it most.

We don't need anyone left behind, or below the poverty line.



Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Oil remains elevated
An increase coming for gasoline prices

Media release

Conception Bay South, NL, March 29, 2011- It's not often that George Murphy's numbers are wrong, but he's hoping that they are this time. Numbers are showing that consumers could see an additional 2.6 cents a litre up on gasoline prices for this week when the PUB adjusts prices this coming Thursday.

"Oil prices remained elevated this week after last week's modest retreat, gaining almost three bucks a barrel US, hitting a new record high since September of '08. We're right back to where we left off with gasoline prices edging upwards and heating oils remaining unaffordable to most. Something has to give. Consumers are going to have to start to let their wallets do the talking." Murphy said.

"Numbers show just a 9/100ths of a cent drop to heating and stove oils, a 4/10ths of a cent drop to diesel prices and a 2.6 cent a litre increase on the way for gasoline. The troubling thing about all this is that, after last weeks data, there was still a demand for gasoline and that helped support the high price. In spite of the rising price, inventories of gasoline continue to drop.

"Heating and stove oils are still showing signs that prices will not be coming down anytime soon. With oil prices up again because of demand and the world geo-political situation, I expect that they will remain high for some time to come. The provincial treasury will continue to reap the benefits of that while consumers will have to collectively start to impact inventories and demand itself. Right now, unless we see economic collapse or more banking problems out of the European Union, we're probably not going to see any relief in the interim".


For more information, contact;

George Murphy
Group researcher/Member
Consumer Group for Fair Gas Prices

Friday, March 25, 2011

Sorry everyone, but with a federal election just around the corner, I felt that I should have some fun and give a little enlightenment at the same time.


Top ten reasons why Harper will not form the next government and not win seats in Newfoundland and Labrador

10) He may be the Prime Minister, but he still “just doesn't get it”...

9) More cuts to government departments like Fisheries, ACOA and Marine Atlantic, just when we need those departments and agencies the most

8) Senate and/or plum appointments for M.P's who fell on the sword, or who have made sacrifices for Steve

7) Lack of a commitment for loan guarantees for the Lower Churchill project. They foot-drag on every issue pertinent to the province.

6) Not giving to veterans what they deserve after serving this country!

5) Bev Ota and Bruce Carson! Losing the confidence of the House certainly doesn't help, and when you hear about the constant skullduggery, the voters want the chance to say “I've have had enough!!”

4) Not paying enough attention to “people issues”, like the tax on heat, screwing with the GIS, and failing to address changes needed to the Canada Pension Plan. In a time when the government is projecting to be out of debt sooner rather than later, and also making billions in Newfoundland and Labrador oil revenues, it's time for strategic investment in looking after your people!

3) Failing to get a seat on the UN security council for what, the ninth year in a row, is it?

2) Canadian taxpayers just don't have the urge to spend $35 billion for US fighter jets that could face a couple of billion in cost over-runs.

...And the number one reason why Harper will not win a seat in Newfoundland and Labrador in the next federal election?

(Place drum roll here)...

#1) Newfoundland and Labrador continuously getting screwed on the Atlantic Accord. Harper still hasn't fixed it. And, while you're at it, how about that 8.5 per cent Hibernia stake?

That's it from me!....

I could have added a few more things, like treatment of Canadian protesters at the G-20 summit in Toronto, the billion dollars that was spent, the artificial fish pond, etc, but it's your turn now!

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

On the rise again
Distillates expected to increase
Media release

Conception Bay South, NL, March 22, 2011- If the numbers are right, consumers will be paying more for distillate type fuels this coming Thursday when the Public Utilities Board adjusts prices. That's according to George Murphy, group researcher with the Consumer Group for Fair Gas Prices.

What the numbers say
"The numbers show distillate fuels will see another round of increases, while gasoline shows just a very slight drop, if anything at all." Murphy said. "I expect heating and stove oils to increase by another 77/100ths of a cent and diesel to increase by 1.3 cents a litre."

"Gasoline shows just a drop of three tenths of a cent, so if you account for my margin for error of just that same three tenths, there may be no change in gasoline prices this week, according to my numbers."

Oil faces a huge test
"Oil prices bounced back this past week, along with refined commodity prices as positive economic news and spreading unrest in North Africa and the Middle East continues to carry weight on traders in the marketplace. Oil prices also increased with optimism of a recovery of the Japanese economy after the earthquake and tsunami in the northeast of the country."

"Continuing concern on the part of consumers also will play into oil prices over the next little while as anger builds with oil's connection to higher consumer prices for other goods and services. People are genuinely angry over the fact that food prices have increased, particularly in the US, part and parcel with rising refined commodity prices. It's my belief that consumers will soon let their feelings known by curtailing spending because of a lack of disposable income, that's if they haven't already done so. Reports from the US already show a sudden drop in existing home sales that may be related to the possible downturn in consumer spending in the US."

"Consumers are watching their money disappear down the fill-pipe."

"Because of this, oil will have trouble seeing a continued climb in price in the long term. People are starting to make the choice between going out to a movie or staying home. Oil prices are simply not sustainable and the economy is being put on notice with signs of a slowdown in spending. I'd say that oil is simply just not sustainable at this level without having repercussions to the economy or to consumers. My guess is that the consumer is going to say 'no' shortly."


For more information, contact;

George Murphy
Group researcher/Member
Consumer Group for Fair Gas Prices

Monday, March 21, 2011

After six days

Just for your information, and in spite of oil being back up around the $103 US a barrel mark again, the numbers aren't too bad. Here's what I have after six days of business:
  • Heating and stove oils show an added 7/10ths of a cent.
  • Diesel shows up by 1.3 cents a litre, and...
  • Gasoline is down by a half cent.
Two things...

First, just a reminder that I cannot account for a lot of market volatility that comes from erratic performance of the markets, and there has been volatility these past couple of weeks!

Secondly, a reminder that when i quote my furnace oil numbers for the winter, they are just an indicator of the direction that furnace oil may go. It's solid for stove oil, but the winter blend of furnace oil here in Newfoundland and Labrador also includes a mix of kerosene as an anti-freeze agent, and I have no way to track kerosene to find out the proper numbers.

I'll be back tomorrow night with the final shot on what to expect for this week.


Government, we have a problem

I've been thinking again...

"Dangerous", the wife says...

"No, really", I say. "Think about it for a minute. I want to bounce a thought on you."

"Ok, if you must insist, and I don't get hurt." She's been victimized by my thinking before, and she's been a good victim about it. She knows the whole oil thing is on my mind again and it's inevitable it'll come up again in the house here, so I start talking.

"It's different this time," I'm thinking. "I haven't seen prices hang high like this without repercussions and it looks like oil's up to stay, and it worries me. We're back to a point where someone wants oil prices to stay up, and it's going to hurt a lot of people."

I'm rambling my thoughts again, but she's intent on letting me get to my point, so I go on.

"Prices are climbing too fast, to a point that even things touched by rising oil prices are getting unaffordable. Besides getting expensive to heat the house, it's getting costly to buy food. Are we in a new age of energy starvation, to the point that we're going to have to start getting serious about our spending for food? Don't get me wrong now! We're OK for now, but what if prices keep climbing? Are we ready for 'new age pricing'?"

I can't help but wonder...

I go on...

"So, oil prices are up and we're dealing with new problems. We have seniors and those on fixed pensions experiencing energy starvation and now we have people out there who are watching more of their power of purchase evaporate. We're getting less for more and we're not going to see oil prices drop for a long time yet, especially if the Middle East and North Africa keep playing a role in the markets. Here we are with people on fixed pensions and an artificial absorption of the inflation rate because we're seeing packages of goods getting smaller without prices going up. Then we hear the likes of Gaelan Weston say that prices across the board are going up by ten per cent because of rising fuel costs. I just get the feeling that the consumer is losing control."

"You're the one losing it." She says.

It's not the first time that I've rambled on with energy in mind, and deep down, she knows I'm right. Just the other day, I dropped into a store while out in the taxi. I'm looking at getting some change and the owner, Dwight tells me "They done it again! The package of Lay's over there? Another fifteen grams smaller and for the same price!" He screams.

"I can't wait to see what'll happen if they screw with the size of a milk carton."

It's bracket creep without the brackets. We're slowly getting squeezed by them without us noticing. We're getting pinched without the pain, and even if oil prices retreat, we're not going to see us get back the thing we're losing now with rising food prices: quantity.

"But the government is just as responsible for having to give back some of what is ours, is it not? With rising royalties, shouldn't we be demanding more of what they're collecting? Shouldn't we be getting our fair share? Where's the investment that will be necessary for the future if heating costs are going to go through the roof like they have been, and will be? Somethings fixed alright, and it's not pensions! They're leaving some people broke!"

I'm pensive again. There's a lot more happening out there than most realize, and this may be just the tip of the iceberg.

The future promises more of the same "household energy deficit", and it worries me.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Numbers are down
but for the wrong reasons

Media release

Conception Bay South, NL, March 15, 2011- Consumers in Newfoundland and Labrador will experience something that they haven't seen in weeks when the PUB adjusts prices this Thursday. Lower prices. That word is from George Murphy, group researcher with the Consumer Group for Fair Gas Prices.

"The numbers are all starting downward, and we're going to see a slight break at the pumps, but for all the wrong reasons, " said Murphy. "The situation immediately after the earthquake in Japan has the world monetary markets fearful over any economic recovery, especially after the impact the quake has had on Japan.

"I expect the real breaks to come next week, if this trend keeps up. Refined commodity prices began to be impacted by the Japan events today, and they signal a slight break to come for this Thursday. My numbers show heating and stove oils to drop by 72/100ths of a cent, diesel to drop by 7/10ths of a cent, and gasoline to drop by 1.4 cents a litre.

"Other areas of the country will see immediate effects of lower cash petroleum numbers. US consumers will see a drop of close on 16.2 US cents a gallon when they wake up tomorrow morning, welcome news for them as some areas have broken the four dollar a gallon mark.

"Here in Newfoundland and Labrador, if these numbers hold up, we could be looking at another drop of close on four to five cents a litre off gasoline, provided the situation in the markets remains as fluid as it is right now,. But anything could happen as regards to world events to change things again to send prices up. We still have the situation with unrest in the Middle East and North Africa as well as the European Union financial situation with some of its members that has yet to play out fully. While this small break was predicted a week ago, the drop in price was not supposed to be because a lot of people died in an earthquake-tsunami scenario.

"The situation in Japan has suddenly put pricing uncertainty back into markets that were already uneasy over the Middle East and North Africa. Over one million barrels a day refinery capacity has also been shut in where consumers there use almost 4.2 million barrels a day and already there are long lines for people looking for supplies. The economics of Japan's 'non-use' of crude oil at this point has put extra oil on the markets all of a sudden with faltering demand as well.
"Either way, numbers will be down, but I think we're all praying for Japan to recover from this one instead."


For more information, contact;

George Murphy
Group researcher
Consumer Group for Fair Gas Prices

Monday, March 14, 2011

Six days in...

Here's what I have for this next regulatory session, six days reporting out of the seven needed.
  • Heating, stove and diesel all show down by a half cent a litre.
  • Gasoline is down by 7/10ths of a cent.
Not a big lot, but the numbers are down, and will probably be this way to finish the session tomorrow night.

While I predicted some very slight relief last week, I didn't expect that the disaster in Japan would be the reason why it would be so, or to be at least part of the reason why oil prices and its related refined commodities would perform.

My reasoning was simple really: that the "speculator industry" would go for a "take" and draw some profits from oil's run-up, giving consumers a small reprieve.

I'll be back tomorrow night with the last day of data and the best guess for the Thursday price change.



Tuesday, March 08, 2011

As predicted last week, there will be another increase in pricing for this Thursday.

Middle East and Libya Continue to play a role on the numbers
Media release

Conception Bay South, NL, March 07, 2011- After this weeks market activity, the numbers are there to show another round of increases is on the way for Newfoundland and Labrador consumers. That's according to George Murphy, group researcher with the Consumer Group for Fair Gas Prices.

"Numbers were all high again for the last week, but they also showed some sign of retreat with refined commodity prices," said Murphy."The last business day of this session was showing down from my weekly average, and that, I hope, is a sign of possible retreat for next week. All that might change however, with trouble brewing in Saudi Arabia and Iran."

"I expect heating and stove oils to increase by 2.58 cents, diesel to increase by 3.1 cents a litre, and gasoline to increase by 3.2 cents a litre.

Day of rage
"All now depends on the round of protests in Saudi Arabia, labeled by various groups as the "Day of Rage" in the country. Those protests have been planned for both March 11th and again on March 20th. If those protests fail in disrupting oil output or fail to cause any kind of a supply disruption, then we should see some sort of a retreat in prices that should happen quickly. If they do succeed, then the floodgates will be open to more increases in prices of petroleum product to consumers.

"It's not about money anymore to some of the protest groups in the Middle East or North Africa. People are demanding real reforms to happen. Barring that, they have been thwarted in attempts at political reforms, some groups getting small investments in job creation and housing in Saudi Arabia for example, and they have turned towards revolutionary stands against their old time leadership. Whatever political stripe the various groups represented before has been put on the back-burner. They have united under the one cause of making real change in their countries. It is all very interesting to watch."


For more information, contact;

George Murphy
Group researcher/Member
Consumer Group for Fair Gas Prices

Monday, March 07, 2011

Market sell-off at hand?

The "six day" is in.

With one day of data to come sometime tomorrow night, there's enough here to say that we're definitely going to take a hit here Thursday, all at the past weeks peril in North Africa and the Middle East.

Here's what I have so far:
  • Heating and stove oils show 2.88 cents a litre up.
  • Diesel shows 3.4 cents a litre up, and...
  • Gasoline now shows 3.5 cents a litre up.
Today's trading was "different". A quick look at the numbers was the normal for the end of today, but it was at the same time "weird", to say the least. It was very hard to describe what I felt looking at those numbers, but let me try to describe what I felt.

The TSX was down somewhat, while oil prices were up. And with oil up, the Canadian dollar still slipped a little, and that was a noticeable slip under that guise, at least for me. The tendency is for the dollar to rise hand in hand with rising oil prices, but not today.

You could smell some trouble in the TSX being down. It's like someone was suddenly paying attention to all the "hype" over rising prices, and starting a revolt of their own, all at the traders expense. To me, just a small warning, or a shot across the bow of whoever is ignoring the possible recession message in higher oil prices.

All you could hear this past weekend was talk about holding on to what one had, and the supposed end of any economic recovery, if there was one to begin with.

Did the markets get the message about the crap investors are getting on with over Libya and Saudi Arabia and the possibility of $200 US a barrel oil??

I don't know. I just get the feeling though, that people are getting a little tired of getting screwed by the markets, let alone at the pumps, and not having the power to do anything about it. With that sentiment also comes the feeling that $200 US a barrel is just not in the cards for anyone no matter what happens in the Middle East. Maybe today's trading session was a warning that even oil prices are tenuous, and could drop out any second.

The rest of the week is going to be very interesting to watch indeed!

I'll be back tomorrow night with the final numbers.



After five days, it doesn't look good

Hi to all...
The "five day" is in, and the news isn't good...Again!

Here's what I have after last night's electronic trading:
  • Heating and stove oils are up by 2.9 cents a litre.
  • Diesel prices show "up" by 3.4 cents, and...
  • Gasoline is up by 3.7 cents a litre.
As of 9:00 A.M Newfoundland time, crude oil (WTI) was trading two bucks a barrel up at $106.42 with the unrest in Libya shutting in production still further amid continuing worries of further disruptions in the Middle east and North Africa.

How do you stop it?

I don't know, but I'm getting sick and tired of having to pay for it.

I'll be back tonight with an update on the numbers for today's trading.


Tuesday, March 01, 2011

Heating oil prices hit second highest price ever
Consumers to take a substantial hit this Thursday

Media release

Conception Bay South, NL, March 01, 2011- Consumers in Newfoundland and Labrador will get a severe shock when the Public Utilities Board adjusts fuel prices this coming Thursday. That's according to George Murphy, group researcher with the Consumer Group for Fair Gas Prices.

What the numbers say
"As predicted last week, the unrest in the Middle East and North Africa are going to start to cost consumers and business severely for the long term, it appears. I have heating and stove oils to increase by 5.14 cents per litre and diesel to increase by 5.7 cents a litre," said Murphy.
"Gasoline prices are expected to increase by 5.3 cents per litre. All fuel prices will be adjusted to reflect the last week of market conditions this Thursday, and it's been a rough week."

Consumers will feel a bigger bite
"Consumers should expect to see elevated costs for foodstuff and, no doubt will be hearing of the potential for a hike in electricity rates as oil prices are expected to remain elevated for some time as there remains a heavy threat to supply of oil product to the world markets, especially from supply disruptions in Iran and Saudi Arabia. As I discovered about two weeks ago, there is a threat of supply disruptions coming out of OPEC's largest producer, Saudi Arabia, all geared to occur either March 11th or March 20th coming. If that occurs, then we have only seen the tip of the iceberg with prices. They'll have no where to go but up.

"Again, the consumer and business have to ask our government, if we, as a country, should be leaving ourselves open to world pricing pressures like this when this country is a net producer of oil, but exports the majority of it rather than keep it for domestic purposes. This will not be the last time consumers will see the effects of high energy pricing. We are already hearing that fuel surcharges are being instituted, or increased by the trucking companies and airlines. It's a matter of time before the airlines do the same thing, or Marine Atlantic also responds in kind leaving the consumer open to a higher rate of inflation than areas of the country not dependent on heavy transportation costs."

For more information, contact;
George Murphy
Group researcher/Member
Consumer Group for Fair Gas Prices
Ensuring political stability
Taking the pressure off food prices

With all the worries over oil supply the last couple of weeks, and no sign of abatement in the changing world geo-political situation forthcoming, the one big question that is being asked is 'How did it all start?'

The answer is simple really: Food prices.

Back in the initial run-up to record high oil prices during 2008, and again this year with increasing oil prices almost seeming the norm, some important food stuffs started to be spied as viable alternatives to the rising price of oil. Some of those important foods stuffs like wheat and corn were also seen as valuable additions to the petrochemical industry in their alternate form of ethanol. You just didn't have to sell your crop for food anymore. You could sell it to someone who would squeeze the cellulose fibre out if it, let it ferment, and make ethanol out of the mix.

The farmer thus became an important component in the petrochemical industry and the price for his, or her crop, went up.

With a huge demand for ethanol that is derived from wheat and corn, along with other fibrous foods, it could not be avoided on the part of farmers worldwide to sell their crops to the highest bidders after watching prices far outstrip what consumers were paying for basic consumption use. Rioting started when people went hungry and food became unaffordable.

No longer was wheat used for the basics like cereals and bread, it had now become of value in the petrochemical industry, filling a gargantuan hole in the additives and oxygenate markets. Human need was competing with Big Oil, and losing.

How do we fix the problem?

The other option
While attention has been given to high yield from various fibre crops like corn and wheat, very little attention has been paid to finding other viable forms of cellulose fibre.

With the forestry industries of Europe and North America at a standstill, and the age of the paper mill hanging in the balance, governments everywhere have yet to turn their eyes to the other renewable resources out there that can help provide that viable alternative fibre source to help in the manufacture of ethanol's close cousin, methanol. For North America and its displaced forestry industry, that answer may very well lie in the manufacture of methanol as the alternative oxygenate for the oil industry.

At the same time as putting people to work, the development of methanol can help take the pressure off wheat and corn prices, while at the same time, feeding the wolds hungry and helping fulfill the needs of the oil industry and environmentalists for cleaner burning fuels.

Perhaps it's both time for governments everywhere to look at the alternatives to ethanol use and, at the same time, ensure that food comes to those who need it most at the most affordable of prices.

Manufactured right here?
Newfoundland and Labrador can play an important role in the development of the methanol industry. With a paper mill closed and one in trouble, there is no doubt that there is a need to find an alternate use for mill fibre besides the traditional paper making role. Cellulose fibre from wood can be used in an experiment to study the viability of methanol manufacture from our Canadian wood sources. If the theory of making methanol from wood fibre is successful, we sit close to world routes for the export of the alternate oxygenate and we put people to work. In some small way, we contribute to feeding the world's hunger problem at the same time as satisfying the need of the petrochemical industry's need for a new oxygenate to ensure a cleaner burning fuel.

Perhaps it's time we ask the government to make use of the Brookfield Road forestry and agriculture facility and look at helping the world solve a problem that may be readily overcome.

Here's what I have with six days out of seven reporting:
  • Heating and stove oils show "up" by 4.88 cents per litre.
  • Diesel is up by 5.4 cents per litre, and...
  • Gasoline is up by 4.9 cents.
I'll be back tonight with final numbers for Thursday!