News From Terre Haute, Indiana

June 23, 2013

READERS' FORUM: June 23, 2013

The Tribune-Star

---- — Walmart proud to contribute

I’ve lived in western Indiana for 12 years. When I walk around Terre Haute, I feel good about the people I see and meet knowing my company, Walmart, has helped many of them.

As a longtime employee (24 years), I’m proud my company provides meaningful employment to nearly 36,000 Hoosiers, with an average starting wage of $12.35. We provide career opportunities to those who earn their advancements, and 75 percent of our managers started as hourly associates.

But our responsibilities don’t stop at our store door. There’s something about seeing hungry kids at Terre Haute Catholic Charities eating a nutritious meal that was assisted by Walmart; or knowing Vigo County people sustain themselves with good food with contributions from Walmart makes me feel good, too. In fact, in 2012 Walmart contributed 16 million pounds of food to food banks and food pantries around Indiana providing 13,700,000 meals for hungry Hoosiers.

Walmart has begun a new advertising campaign and has a new website, www.therealwalmart.

com. I hope you will view the commercials on TV and online and see the Walmart I know and better understand why I’m proud to be an associate.

— Russ Koenig

Walmart Market Manager for West Central Indiana

City should crack down on slumlords

I would like to just say that Terre Haute is such a nice place to live. Here is my complaint and I am sure I am not alone, because many cities and towns have the same problem.

My problem is slumlords. They buy up houses, let them go and there goes our neighborhood. Why can’t they be held to the same standards as homeowners?

The one next door to me, the landlord has several houses, same disrepair, nor does she seem to care if it makes our homes look bad. She needs to be fined, all of them need to be fined. They make our city look horrible.

— Elizabeth Asay

Terre Haute

Oil companies simply serve own interests

I have considerable concern about the big red numbers up high at the entrance to the gas station and what they indicate. Adding insult to injury are the paltry and redundant reasons for the recent rise given by economists and others.

The usual official reason given is supply and demand. In this case, there is doubt for either a gas shortage or a rise in demand. Gas is still available for sale.

Travel to places of employment, for educational purposes, delivery of goods (count the semi-trucks on the highways), medical appointments and the usual errands all take gas. Compare all that necessary travel to the occasional vacations taken.

Supply shortages can and may be manipulated. A look at just the past two years will show a pattern we’ve been enduring for several years.

In June 2012, gas in Indiana had risen to $3.78 per gallon, the highest in the nation. Illinois, Michigan and Ohio had high prices also. Attorney General Greg Zoeller blamed the rise, in part, on the closing of an Illinois refinery for planned maintenance. The reduced operations at three other refineries in Illinois and Indiana contributed to the spike.

In July 2012, a refinery fire occurred in Richmond, Calif., and pipelines in Wisconsin and Illinois ruptured, plus equipment malfunctions in Illinois and Indiana caused problems.

In April 2013, a Detroit Marathon refinery caught fire and other refineries had some glitches as well. BP at Whiting had decreased to two-thirds production capacity, and in Joliet, Ill., there was a maintenance slowdown.

Recently, the attorney general’s office’s chief economist said he believes Indiana’s spike in gas prices is being fueled by production delays at seven of the Midwest’s 10 largest refineries.

We now export oil to Mexico, Canada, Brazil and the Netherlands. It was reported in March 2013, that the U.S. was forecast to overtake Saudi Arabia as the world’s largest crude oil producer by 2020.

Oil companies cooperate with each other, creating terminals where transport trucks can fill up with any one of a variety of brands. Why don’t they cooperate on maintenance schedules? Maybe they do — to our detriment. With today’s technology, there should be few problems maintaining a consistent supply.

Why do we subsidize oil? Why not use that money toward development of renewable resources? In 2011, the U.S. gave $13 billion to the fossil fuel industry via tax breaks and other production subsidies to the oil companies. It’s probably more now. Many countries subsidize gas at the pump. We tax it. Gas was $1 per gallon in Qatar last year.

It was reported in April 2012 that Exxon Mobile sold oil for higher prices around the world. Profits rose for its international refining operations.  It also planned to boost its quarterly dividend by 21 percent, the largest increase since 1975, making it the biggest corporate dividend payer.

Contrary to what we’ve been led to believe, it isn’t simple supply and demand causing price increases. Oil is sold in dollars on the global markets and its current value bears considerable weight. Speculators, playing their gambling games on the markets, matter as much as anything.

Our government hasn’t done anything of note to curtail big oil since it established anti-trust laws in 1892 and 1911 in order to keep John D. Rockefeller and his Standard Oil Co. from monopolizing the oil industry.

The only power we, as citizens, have to change things are the powers of speech and the vote. How do our individual legislators vote on issues concerning big oil? How many of them and their staff members own oil stock? How much money in campaign donations (bribes) do they receive from oil companies?

With today’s technology, it isn’t hard to find out such information and to determine who is not acting on our best behalf. We need to learn, to speak up and then to vote.

By the way, where are all the investigative journalists?

— Patty A. Wright


Getting honest about gas prices  

Most of Terre Haute’s drivers are lamenting profusely these contemporary gasoline prices. At least gasoline is readily available for your pumping pleasure. After all, you are not sitting in a two-block line waiting two hours at 5 a.m. to pump $5 worth of gasoline on an even or odd calendar day of the month based upon the last digit of your license plate number as was the case in 1973 during the Arab oil embargo.  

People just can’t seem to understand why gasoline prices are where they are today.

 It’s called supply and demand for this commodity. Occasional Nigerian political turmoil impacts its supply to the world markets. Indian macroeconomics growth is bringing about more demand for oil. China is on a growth binge, driving the price upward in all commodities, but especially for gasoline and diesel fuel with the expectation of indescribable demand for these fuels as China grows in population. Venezuela supplies 12 percent of the American oil market. Venezuelan political dislocation bears a certain cause and effect impact on USA fuel prices.

When aggregate demand for a commodity outstrips its market supply, or a geopolitical threat such as is ongoing in the Middle East with this Syrian conflict, oil and fuel supply is disrupted. Moreover, the presence of American aircraft carrier battle groups throughout the Persian Gulf, and the continued rumor this administration might attack Iran doesn’t help the pricing situation either.

Such hostilities would purge five million barrels off the spot global market daily; not to mention what an attack on Iran would do to production, distribution and shipping terminal facilities in Saudi Arabia given the fact indigenous Islamic insurgents in the region who harbor their vitriolic hatred of America would in turn attack these oil installations and supply networks.    

Then, we have a season of rejuvenated driving demand replete with these SUV hogs getting 14 miles to the gallon on the open road while three Midwestern domestic refineries have been off-line due to either maintenance or a devastating fire at a Marathon refinery in Detroit. Other refineries struggle to produce enough gasoline for domestic consumption during their change-over to summer seasonal octane blends to conform with federal EPA regulations.

Not to be forgotten, we have the demand for oil from petroleum-based industries that produce polyurethane, polypropylene, plastics, synthetic rubber, industrial fabrics and a whole host of other finished consumer products too numerous to list here.

Furthermore, the continuation of a weak American dollar relative to other currencies makes United States’ oil imports more expensive here domestically. Lastly, New York Mercantile Exchange traders and speculators in that arena tend to bid up the price of oil for their futures market contracts.

Brent North Sea oil, West Texas Intermediate crude and OPEC high sulfur oil pricing is $100 per barrel, which factors into current underlying derivative gasoline prices.

Note should be taken that global oil consumption is 86 million barrels daily which nearly matches global production of 88 million barrels. Factoring into this equation terrorism, political insurgency and the possibility this administration might expand an United States’ presence in the Middle East, one can readily deduce why these fuel prices exist at these Herculean thresholds.  

Instead of complaining about these prices as one drinks his/her $6 bloody Mary, political pressure should be thrust on these Washington politicians to finally accomplish a substantive revolution in alternative fuel production such as ethanol as a booster to gasoline from corn, or heavy trucks using more natural gas as a means to replace diesel fuel, or greater development and the use of electric cars.

By the way, when the price of oil rises to $140 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange futures market, and gasoline prices rocket to $6 a gallon at the self-service pump, this $4.25 a gallon of today will certainly seem like a bargain basement deal.

— Earl Beal

Terre Haute

Thanks to all at Ruby Tuesday

On Wednesday, June 5, my stepdaughter and I were starting to have lunch when I went into what appeared to be a heart attack. The staff at Ruby Tuesday went into immediate action to make me comfortable and called 911. Customers went out of their way to help and stayed with us until the ambulance came. A lovely lady prayed with my stepdaughter as I was being taken to the hospital.

Fortunately this was not a heart attack, but a severe reaction to medication I had taken. After five hours in Union Hospital, I went home and I am fine.

Ruby Tuesday is a fine place to eat; however, when it comes to caring about the welfare of its customers, I would have to re-name it to “Diamond Tuesday.”

Thanks again to all for caring.

— Louella J. Edwards

Marshall, Ill.

What health care will Congress get?

Due to Obamacare, some people are worried about congressional brain drain. Our Congress? You mean the people passing stupid laws, that Congress? Maybe I missed something but I don’t ever remember reading that anyone in Congress was considered brainy.  

Somehow or other Congress really screwed up. If true, (personally, I think it is too good to be true) it has been said, they passed a law that Obamacare was now their care. Which means the health care that covers everything, and subsidized 70 percent by the taxpayers, will soon be gone and the representatives, families and staff will have to live with the same health care that they shoved down our throats.

Where does brain drain come in? Some are retiring early, before Obamacare kicks in, then they can keep the best health care coverage in the world. Otherwise they have to exist with what we are stuck with, death panels and all.

— Sam Wallace

Casey, Ill.

Attention, please

Would someone please repair the railroad crossing at Ft. Harrison Road and 25th Street?

— John P. Torphy

Terre Haute