Coalition: Send protests and gas bill to state

Coalition: Send protests and gas bill to state

By Shellie Berg

By Shellie Berg

Staff Reporter

Alberto Altamore, executive director of the Illinois Coalition Against Unfair Utilities, urges individuals to flood Illinois Attorney General Jim Ryan’s office with letters opposing their pricey gas bills.

Nicor Gas is only supposed to make a profit on the delivery of natural gas. Nicor spokesman Craig Whyte maintains Nicor is making a profit only on the delivery of natural gas.

At the Rockford Public Library Thursday, Altamore dismissed Nicor’s claims and said companies must be making an unwarranted sum.

He believes that if Ryan’s office takes the heat from consumers and receives not hundreds, but thousands, of letters against the cost of gas, Ryan might call for an investigation.

Ryan initiated an investigation into the gasoline crisis that gulped consumers’ money last year. Two days later, prices decreased by 75 cents.

The supply line for natural gas goes from drilling companies to brokers/marketeers to gas companies to consumers. “The biggest problem is here,” Altamore stated. He said that in many instances, the drilling companies own the gas companies. Nicor, Inc. is the parent company of Nicor Gas.

Moreover, the industry “contributes heavily to our politicians,” he said.

Companies are charging around 98 cents per therm (a unit of heat) and last year charged between 38 cents to 45 cents a therm. The average home uses eight to 10 therms daily.

Altamore said gas companies contend a shortage of gas exists. “We use about 20 trillion cubic feet of natural gas a year—in reserves, 164 trillion cubic feet,” Altamore noted. “That, to me, is not a shortage. We, the consumers—they’re squeezing us at every level.”

But Whyte disagreed. “I think there’s a lot of confusion,” Whyte commented. “Gas prices are up because we’re coming off three or four seasonably warm winters. This year, we had a cold winter, so demand is up.”

In addition, Nicor’s website states that “high prices are the result of a temporary imbalance between growing natural gas demand and relatively stable supply.”

Whyte stated that in the last 15 years, the only increase Nicor created was a 2.8 percent increase in 1996.

Whyte said that 70 to 75 percent of the price listed on gas bills is the cost of actual gas. He noted 5 to 10 percent of the bill is taxes, and the remaining amount is the delivery charge. “If that gas cost were 95 cents or 5 cents, Nicor wouldn’t make any more money on the price of gas,” he said. “We, unfortunately, pay what our customers pay. We do make more money because of cold weather.”

Those who want to complain about their gas bills can write or just send their gas bill to Ryan at 500 South Second St., Springfield, IL 62706.

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