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Gas Bills

February 10, 1988

On the subject of extremely high gas bills due to the unusually cold weather in late December, most of the letter writers to The Times (Jan. 29) put blame on the Legislature of 1982 for their plight. Actually, the Legislature did what the complainers of 1982 wanted by providing a subsidy for the poor and low-income people who normally did not waste energy. The purpose then was two-fold: (1) to give the more affluent people the incentive to conserve energy and help our nation to be less dependent on OPEC, and (2) to "soak the rich," both business and private, who were perceived as the culprits of energy wastefulness. It works quite well in normal weather.

You cannot design legislation to allow for weather extremes. If the law were changed back to bill everyone for the actual cost of gas as was suggested, the poor and lower-income families would be paying larger gas bills 12 months a year, not just for one cold month or two. If the actual cost is determined to be, say 55 a therm, that is 57% higher for the lower-use months. The rich would be enjoying much lower gas bills, no longer subsidizing ours with their 95-cent therms. Better to lick our wounds for this unusually cold winter and hang onto our subsidy.

JOHN G. McCUE

Yucaipa

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