Vermont Fuel Dealers to meet with Treasury Secretary Paulsen

November 10, 2008

(Submitted by the VFDA) The Vermont Fuel Dealers Association and eight other trade associations have asked US Treasury Secretary Henry Paulsen for a meeting to discuss the financial issues faced by heating fuel retailers. Late Friday, we received word that a meeting is in the works. We all took this extraordinary step to ensure that the voice of small businesses, not just Wall Street and multinational corporations, gets heard.
This is what we intend to tell Secretary Paulsen.
The Economic Emergency Stabilization Act isn't supposed to pay for bonuses to executives. The $700 billion appropriated by Congress is supposed to free up lending to small businesses and consumers in order to jumpstart the economy. That isn't happening.
Just be patient, some argue, the impact will take time to trickle down. But time is a luxury the heating fuel industry does not have. It is getting colder and peak winter demand is approaching.
Wall Street speculators drove energy prices through the roof this spring and early summer. Consumers came to us in great numbers and demanded protection in the form of fixed price contracts. Our companies had to lock in very expensive wholesale supply contracts in order to meet that consumer demand.
A critic from a Texas based energy consulting firm read our letter to Secretary Paulsen and wrote to VFDA:

"Your customers made an unwise choice. That's not the oil dealer's fault. It was just a dumb decision by the customer. Are you suggesting your dealers give their customers $3 heating oil with no consequences to the customer for being stupid and buying at a higher fixed-price?"
The comment demonstrates the arrogance of speculators who made billions at our expense. Vermonters are decent, hard working and thoughtful people who were simply trying to protect themselves and their families while Wall Street was cheering a bull market in crude oil. This summer heating oil customers were told by everyone, from environmentalists to T. Boone Pickens, that the end of oil was coming. Crude oil had increased by $50 in a matter of months-- rising to $147 a barrel in July. During this run-up they were told by Goldman Sachs that $200 a barrel was next. Facing $4.50 a gallon retail heating oil in July, they were told by the best and the brightest on Wall Street and CNBC to expect to pay $7 a gallon by the time the snow flies.
There was a panic. Many consumers locked in a fixed price. And, as required by Vermont law, so did the dealers.
We are the face of Main Street, local business men and women who live in the communities where we work. We are not asking for a bail out or a hand out. We want to borrow money and pay it back. We simply want the system to work as Congress intended, to free up commercial and consumer lending. This is the point of EESA, the Emergency Economic Stabilization Act. We want the Treasury Secretary to know that for all of the attention to Wall Street, small businesses employee 95% of the nation's workforce. We are the engine that drives the national economy.
It is time to put the EESA to work for all Americans.
Paulsen Letter: