Governor asks oil industry to help

The Associated Press

The Associated Press
SANTA FE — Gov. Bill Richardson has called on the oil and gas industry for a second time to pitch in $50 million to help consumers with high gasoline prices, but an industry leader says supply will have to increase and demand must decrease before prices will come down.

Richardson first asked the oil and gas industry to chip in during a special legislative session last fall. On Monday, he renewed the request and asked residents to contact the New Mexico Oil and Gas Association to urge their members to help with high energy costs.

“New Mexico is ready to help distribute this $50 million if the oil and gas industry will step up, help out and break their stunning silence,” Richardson said in a statement. “This industry is enjoying record-breaking profits while New Mexicans are feeling the pinch.”

Bob Gallagher, president of the New Mexico Oil and Gas Association, said members of the association are just as concerned about the high prices.

“We’re paying the same prices at the pump,” he said in an interview.

He explained that growing demand, stagnant supplies, the lack of new refineries and the nation’s dependence on foreign oil — especially from countries in unstable regions of the world — all play a role in the high prices. He noted that the United States produces about 7 percent of the world’s crude oil but uses more than 20 percent.
“Somebody has got to wake up in the morning and say that’s not healthy,” Gallagher said. “It’s the main reason we’re in the position we’re in today.”

He added: “I don’t see the correlation in asking oil and gas companies who do business in New Mexico to pitch in money. The companies did not put us into this situation.”
Gallagher said he looks forward to meeting with the governor to talk about high energy prices.

Richardson said he will continue to push for an investigation of price gouging to “make sure that the ways in which gasoline prices are set are completely above board.”
Nationally, President Bush has asked the Energy and Justice departments to investigate whether prices have been illegally manipulated.