Los Angeles Times
July 19, 2008
The state scorned the free assistance two years ago, but costs have risen.
CONCORD, N.H. -- Two years ago, New Hampshire refused to accept heating oil from Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, the pro-Castro U.S. critic who once called President Bush "the devil." But with fuel prices rising, well, free oil is free oil.
With the state's blessing, New Hampshire residents will be receiving some of the fuel this winter.
New Hampshire becomes the last state in the Northeast to embrace the offer.
"A lot of people have said, 'We need help and we value any help we can get,' " said Amy Ignatius, director of the state's office of energy and planning.
The oil giveaway will be managed by Citizens Energy, a nonprofit organization set up by former Massachusetts Rep. Joseph Kennedy to help the poor stay warm. But the state energy office plans to help Citizens publicize the aid and sign up fuel-oil dealers.
Back in 2006, when Chavez began offering free oil to Americans from Venezuela's government-controlled Citgo, New Hampshire's energy office contacted the Venezuelan Embassy about a deal.
But the idea galled some New Hampshire Republicans, including Sen. John E. Sununu, who called it a "disgrace" and an attempt at grandstanding by Chavez. Democratic Gov. John Lynch squelched the deal.
Two years ago, heating oil sold for about $2.50 per gallon in the Northeast.
Last month, the average price was $4.61, and it could reach $5 by winter.
The average tank holds 250 to 275 gallons. Filling it can cost more than $1,200.