U.S. is going deeper in hole on oil production, refining

This news may make conservationists gag, but the reality is that the United States is expected to increase its consumption of gasoline and jet fuel anywhere from 200,000 to 400,000 barrels of oil a day annually for the next several years.

At least that's the estimate of PFC Energy, a Washington, D.C., consulting firm. At the same time, the refining industry in the United States is expected to increase its capacity to produce that fuel by only about 100,000 to 300,000 barrels.

Consumers may be headed for another era of electric rate hikes

Longtime residents of East Central Illinois will recall the days in the 1980s when electricity rate increases were nearly an annual occurrence for customers of the old Illinois Power Co. That was the time when IP was desperately trying to keep its revenues above its expenses as it built the enormous and enormously expensive Clinton nuclear power plant. That decision ultimately led to the end of Illinois Power, as it first was purchased by Houston-based Dynegy and then by St. Louis-based Ameren.

But anyone who's moved here since 1992 – the year of the last electricity rate increase – has seen either flat rates or actual rate decreases. Illinois Power electricity rates fell 15 percent in 1998 and another 5 percent in 2002. The rate reductions were part of an agreement to deregulate the state's electric industry. There probably isn't any other widely used commodity that costs about 20 percent less today than it did eight years ago.

Going after high gas prices a no-brainer for ambitious pols

Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan took a no-lose political stance last week when she announced that the owners of 18 gas stations across the state have until Jan .5 to pay $1,000 each to the American Red Cross or be sued for alleged price gouging.

It's hard to imagine that any of Madigan's targets will reject the offer because they know or should soon find out that it will cost them more than $1,000 in legal fees to fight a lawsuit. So they all can be expected to roll over, and Madigan will emerge as a defender of consumer rights.

Were sports fans really ready for some football? Absolutely!

After 36 years and 555 games, the ABC television network has brought the curtain down on a signature television broadcast, "Monday Night Football."

But don't worry, that broadcast may be gone, but not far. Despite the hoopla over its final ABC broadcast, "Monday Night Football" is just moving down the television dial to ESPN, which is owned by ABC. ESPN, in turn, is giving up its "Sunday Night Football" broadcast, which will be moving to NBC.

Ryan's defenders are blind to sleaze

Many weeks into the corruption trial of George Ryan with no end in sight, the sleazy adventures of our former governor and his greedy friends just keep on coming.

It ought to and probably does sicken average citizens who are reading daily accounts of how Ryan and friends used their positions of power to enrich themselves. No stunt was too low if it promised a payoff.

Transit election plan a gross overreaction

Given the rancorous public debate over expansion into areas where the local mass transit district isn't wanted, it's no surprise that state legislators have followed up on voluminous complaints by proposing that MTD board members be elected rather than appointed.

Proposals like that get the attention of even the most tone-deaf public officials. More importantly, electing those who make decisions is the most democratic way of doing the public's business.

Savoy, MTD achieve cessation of hostilities

Since this is the season of peace on earth and goodwill toward men, it's entirely appropriate that representatives of the local mass transit district and Savoy Village Board have buried the hatchet – and not in each other's necks.

The two public bodies have agreed on a two-year truce that may last longer. Now both sides can enjoy a cooling-off period as they try to work out a schedule for the Champaign-Urbana Mass Transit District to extend bus service to the area of Savoy that does not currently have it or want it.

Goodbye Tookie, we hardly knew ye

Stanley Tookie Williams, a mass murderer who was executed in California, got quite a sendoff last week at a Los Angeles funeral that drew his fans as well as politicians, celebrities and gang members.

Held at a church in the violence-wracked neighborhood where Williams decades ago founded the Crips, a notorious street gang, the funeral drew such a huge crowd that television monitors were set up outside the church so everyone could watch the exercise in self-delusion inside.

School board should ask only for necessities in bond issue

At the top of the to-do list for the Champaign school board next month is to decide whether it wants to ask voters to pay for a districtwide school construction program, and how big a construction program it wants.

It's a virtual certainty the school board will authorize some kind of bond issue referendum in early January, to go on the March 21 ballot. But the size of the bond issue is the larger question.

Candidate filings leave public with unsatisfying lack of choice

Unless there are some significant changes in the election ballot, it won't be much of a primary election in March or general election in November for voters interested in Champaign County government.

That's because, for now at least, incumbent county officials have scared off potential challengers.