In mid-July Citgo—the US oil distributor owned by the Venezuelan state oil company, Petroleos de Venezuela, SA (PDVSA)—began a program to distribute compact fluorescent lightbulbs (CFLs) to low- and middle-income families in Houston and Corpus Christi, Tex.; Lamont, Ill.; Lake Charles, La.; and Washington, DC. Ultimately the program is intended to supply some 460,000 of the energy-saving lightbulbs to homes in these cities and in Boston, Philadelphia, New York City, Milwaukee, Minneapolis and Madison, Wisconsin.
Former Congress member Joe Kennedy II (D-MA), Venezuelan ambassador Bernardo Alvarez and Citgo president Alejandro Grarado attended the inauguration of the program in a Washington, DC home. The CFL supplements the Citgo-Venezuela Heating Oil program, which has provided winter fuel assistance to more than 1.2 million US households during the past two years. (People’s Weekly World, NY, July 15)
The state of New Hampshire is now participating in the heating oil program; it is the last state in the Northeast to participate. Sen. John Sununu (R-NH) called the program a “disgrace” when it started in 2006, and Gov. John Lynch, a Democrat, kept New Hampshire out of it. Now that the price of heating oil has risen from about $2.50 a gallon in the Northeast to an average $4.61—as of June 2008—the local politicians have changed their position. On July 17 Sununu criticized Venezuelan president Hugo Chávez Frias but said he has no problem with people getting help from Citizens Energy, a nonprofit organization set up by Joseph Kennedy that is managing the program. (San Francisco Chronicle, July 18 from AP)
From Weekly News Update on the Americas, July 20
See our last posts on Venezuela and its grassroots oil diplomacy.