October 31, 2014

Nebraska Appleseed report on family and economy

Nebraska Appleseed just released their “Nebraska Snapshots: Indicators of the Health of Workers and Families” report. Economic Justice Director James Goddard authored the report and says it appears that hard work isn’t paying off in Nebraska. 

Goddard says the report shows nearly one out of three working families, almost 70,000, are low income.   More than 77,000 Nebraskans age 18 and older are holding down more than one job. At least 54,000 working families with low incomes fall into a coverage gap where they are unable to get affordable health care.

Goddard says hard working families are Nebraska’s biggest asset and placing a greater focus on pay, a healthy workforce and fixing work supports for families struggling to make ends meet can contribute to our state’s ability to succeed in a global economy.

Natural gas prices may rise “a twitch” this winter

Propane TankWith memories of last winter’s cold blast, some of Nebraska’s natural gas suppliers are looking for what they’re calling insurance. Clyde Gross is the senior gas manager for Northwestern Energy.

“We’re 70% locked in through our traditional ways of locking in,” Gross says. “Because of a scar we have from last winter, not near the big scar the propane guys had last winter, we’ve layered in an extra tier of December, January, February to further protect our customers from the price volatility we saw last year.”

Gross says it looks like natural gas prices will be up slightly this coming winter.

“Probably a nickel a therm,” Gross says. “Most of them use about 600 therms through the winter so that’s (an increase of) about $30 through the course of the winter. The customers, at least in my house, we used more therms than we normally used because it was colder, but the price is going to be just up a twitch.”

Northwestern serves the central Nebraska cities of Grand Island, Kearney and North Platte.

By Jerry Oster, WNAX, Yankton


Gas under $3 a gallon at several Nebraska locations

Some Nebraskans are getting pretty good deal at the gas pump but Rose White with AAA Nebraska says the further west you go the more you will pay.  She says prices vary across the U-S.

Missouri has the lowest price at $2.84 a gallon for self-serve unleaded so those in southeast Nebraska will see lower prices. However, Wyoming is among the highest top ten in the country. Of the 173 communities AAA Nebraska surveyed on Thursday 29 of them posted gas at under $3 a gallon.

White says there are several reasons for the price drop. She says crude oil prices dropped to $79 a barrel, down from $107 in June. Several other factors include U-S crude production is up, lower corn prices has kept ethanol prices down and no hurricanes to disrupt production for the two years.

White says it is hard to predict what the future holds but AAA is reporting prices will be favorable for the rest of the year.

Winter fuel outlook report calls for 7% increase in gas prices

The American Gas Association is out with their winter fuel outlook report. Vice President of Policy Analysis Chris McGill says they take into consideration supply, demand, temperature, weather events and pipeline capacity to calculate their outlook.

 McGill says domestic natural gas supplies are at an all-time high so there is no fear of a shortage during the cold winter months. He says demand is also up for not only home heating but for electric generation, industrial use and for transportation.

 McGill says heating systems had to work overtime last winter due to the polar vortex that caused a deep freeze event for an extended period of time. That is not in the 2014-15 winter outlook and forecasters say it will be a more normal winter an that will also help keep heating bills in check.

 McGill says taking all factors into consideration consumers can expect a 7% increase in their winter heating bills compared to last year. He says right now on a national basis it is $4 per-million BTU’s, which is a sustainable number. McGill says that number could be relatively stable going forward the next several years.

September’s Economic Survey Index

September’s overall Economic Survey Index for the Midwest and Plains states dropped from 57.2 in August to 54.3 in September. Creighton University Economist Ernie Goss conducts the monthly survey and says the region isn’t seeing the job growth it should.  

He says, “Normally this region exceeded what is going on in the U-S and now we are moving below that. Why? Because of the agricultural economy has weakened and the energy economy that has weakened. Why? The dollar has strengthened making those goods less competitively priced abroad so exports weakened a bit for the month. Grain prices, 30% decline over the year. That is a heck of a hit for the farm.”

Goss says regarding wages, year over year we like to see an increase of 3% or 4%. The latest report shows a 1.6% and Goss says that needs to be a lot stronger.