New Braunfels Herald Zeitung (Newspaper) - September 16, 2000, New Braunfels, Texas
Saturday, September 16, 2000 — Herald-Zeitung — Page 3A
Gasoline prices see big drop
WASHINGTON (AP) — Consumer prices fell in August for the first time in 14 years, as the biggest drop in gasoline prices since 1991 overwhelmed higher costs for clothes and prescription drugs.
The good inflation news in Fridays report bolstered economists’ belief that the Federal Reserve won’t need to boost interest rates any more this year to ward off inflation and prevent the economy from overheating.
The Labor Department’s Consumer Price Index, the most closely watched inflation gauge, declined by a seasonally adjusted 0.1 percent last month, a better show ing than the modest increase many analysts were expecting.
“The bottom line: this is a very positive report for consumers. Inflation is tame, and households should continue to enjoy weak or falling prices for many products from PCs to vehicles,” said Mark Zandi, chief economist at Economy.com, an economic consulting firm.
August’s performance marked the first monthly CPI decline since a 0.4 percent drop in April 1986, the government said. That
was caused by a collapse in global oil prices to $ 13 a barrel in April 1986 from around $31 a barrel just five months earlier, economists said.
On Wall Street, the tame inflation report didn’t inspire investors. Stocks fell on a mix of profit-taking, bargain hunting and general anxiety about corporate profits. The Dow Jones industrial average closed down 160.47 points to 10,927.06.
Economists believe the outlook remains good that inflation will stay low, but the wild card in that scenario is energy prices. Besides a temporary dip in gasoline prices in August, energy costs have been surging, with crude oil prices recently hitting $35 a barrel.
Rebounding gasoline and other energy costs are expected to push up the CPI in September, economists said. Many analysts don’t believe higher energy prices will have either a worrisome or longlasting effect on the prices of other products.
“Overall energy costs, including home heating costs, could be painful this winter. Still, we’re not looking for energy to spark any broader inflationary problems,”
said Oscar Gonzalez, economist with John Hancock Financial Services.
Economists aren’t worried because the “core” rate of inflation, which excludes volatile energy and food prices, has been remarkably stable.
For the fifth month in a row, the core rate rose by a modest 0.2 percent in August, matching analysts’ expectations.
President Clinton chimed in on the subject Friday. At a White House photo op, Clinton said he did not expect recessionary pressures “in the short to medium term,” largely because “we have withstood this oil price spike very much better than we did when it happened before.”
The Federal Reserve’s six inter-est-rate increases since June 1999 are working to slow economic growth and keep inflation under control, economists said.
In the first eight months of this year, consumer prices have been rising at an annual rate of 3.4 percent, compared with a 2.7 percent increase for all of 1999. But the pickup has come from higher energy costs, which have resulted from production limits by oil-pro
and continuing in the United
ducing nations heavy demand States.
An international outcry over soaring energy prices prompted the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries to announce Monday that it will boost output.
Energy prices so far this year have been increasing at an annual rate of 14.3 percent, compared with a 13.4 percent advance for all of 1999.
In August, however, energy prices fell by 2.9 percent, led by the biggest drop in gasoline prices since February 1991.
Gasoline prices declined by 6 percent last month, a temporary drop that economists attributed to a number of factors including expectations that OPEC would boost oil-production and political pressure on refineries to rein in high gasoline prices, particularly in the Midwest.
Still, economists said August’s CPI report, based on information from earlier in the month, didn’t catch big increases in gasoline and other energy prices late in the month.
Falling energy prices helped blunt rising prices elsewhere.
Wen Ho Lee’s daughter speaks
LOS ALAMOS, N.M. (AP) — Alberta Lee grew up a sheltered young woman out of touch with her Asian-American heritage. That would change dramatically when her father, former Los Alamos scientist Wen Ho Lee, was thrown into solitary confinement.
In the nine months since then, Ms. Lee, a 26-year-old technical writer in San Francisco, has emerged as a graceful, impassioned spokeswoman for her father and for Asian-Americans.
And now, with her father a free man, she wants to go to law' school and make a career out of defending others’ rights.
“I think the one stellar person in all this is Alberta. She’s the one to watch. She’s going places,” said John Vance, a safety engineer at Los Alamos National Laboratory and a supporter of Ms. Lee’s father.
This week, Ms. Lee celebrated her father’s freedom after the
government dropped all but one of 59 counts alleging he breached national security. Neighbors threw a big backyard welcome-home party for the 60-year-old Taiwan-born scientist, and Ms. Lee brought him cups of tea and introduced him to supporters.
“Before this, I really was kind of going through the motions and didn’t really know what to do with my life,” she said at the party. “I really felt like there was something more important out there for me, but I didn’t know what it was. I think Eve discovered that now.”
Her coming of age began in 1998 when she began getting worried phone calls from home that her father was being asked to take polygraph tests.
“I was begging him from the first polygraph in December ’98 on to get a lawyer,” she said, adding that her father kept insisting he had done nothing wrong.”
“It wasn't a mistake in the sense that we needed to conserve water, but in the trigger level we set,” Bel-don said.
San Antonio voted Thursday not to support the ban but gave city manager Alex Briseno authority to impose it in consultation with the EAA the next time Comal Springs drops below 150 cfs.
In New Braunfels, EAA board vice chairman Doug Miller said Beldon’s position could be posturing as a result of political pressure a view shared by Garden Ridge City Manager Mike Castro.
Both expressed surprise at Bel-don's recent remarks.
“How many people do you hear saying this?” Miller asked. “I think the chairman is speaking for the w hole board and maybe he should-n’t be. The credibility of the Edwards Aquifer Authority is becoming suspect, and that’s unfortunate.”
Castro said, “the science didn’t change over the past week. We were putting the wheels in motion to comply with the ban. Nobody thought the chairman of the aquifer authority was going to do a complete backflip on us yesterday.” Castro said the Garden Ridge City Council would decide what to do when it meets Thursday to adopt its budget and tax rate, but it’s not implementing the sprinkler ban.
“On the one hand, I’m glad for homeowners who didn’t have to go through the tumultuous times with a sprinkler ban. On the other, I’m very, very disappointed in their actions. We're frustrated and confused. How many other pieces of the puzzle down there are wrong? They've lost a great deal of credibility, at least with respect to this community.”
The EAA has not done much better in New Braunfels.
“The aquifer level and the spring How is more than ar, endangered species issue,” New Braunfels Mayor Stoney Williams said in a news release issued by New Braunfels Utilities.
“This is the region’s water supply for all of us. This is one more blatant example of using the endangered species to ignore the real issues and avoid taking strong steps. The FLAA should be prepared to support their own initiatives instead of demonstrating to us all that San Antonio tells them how it will be.” Friday, the Comal Springs were running about 165 cfs and rising. The water level at the J-17 well, which was at 641 feet above mean sea level also was rising.
BeJdon said he expected that on Sept. 22 when the authority announces the end of the sprinkler ban it could as well announce the end of Stage ll water restrictions.
I Ie acknow ledged the sprinkler ban will not be enforced in the interim but disputed allegations that he was posturing or knuckling under to political pressure.
“I guess they can characterize it
any way they want. I hope they know I have more integrity than that,” Beldon said.
“As long as the well levels are up and the spring flow levels are up, it’s pretty hard for us to ask them to take action triggered at 150 when we’re sitting in the 160s,” Beldon said.
In response to other comments Beldon made, rumblings came from the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service that more legal action could be in EAA’s future if the flow in Comal Springs drops below 150 cfs and the authority does not do anything to protect springs habitat.
Beldon said Friday that the sprinkler ban was intended to be a last resort that did not come into play until the aquifer dropped to 630 feet above msl.
Beldon said the 150 cfs flow at Comal Springs was intended to provide a life-saving cushion for the fountain darter that lives in the springs. He said the fountain darter could survive at flow levels much lower than that.
He said he thought the trigger level should be revisited and that maybe a flow number in ‘the 120s” or a combination of flow rate and well level should be considered.
That viewpoint on the flow rate was news to U.S. Fish & Wildlife assistant field supervisor Bill Sea-well in Austin, although he said he was not surprised by it.
“He’s certainly entitled to his opinion and we’re entitled to ours. They’ve (the EAA) been told many times we don’t think their plan is adequate and they could be liable for ‘take’ of endangered species,” Seawall said.
Seawell said his agency was discussing the matter with its law enforcement personnel and attorneys, working on plans to deal with the issue — and the EAA.
“We’re very concerned about
flow in the spring. We’ll do what we have to to protect the spring Hows. Depending on their action in the future, we’ll take appropriate action,” he said.
Beldon said he had the interests of the region as a whole at heart — upstream and downstream and east and west of San Antonio — as well as the interests of the endangered species.
“The last thing I want to see is the springs and the wells going dry,” Beldon said.
Beldon charged that Fish & Wildlife has an internal study that says there is no damage to the fountain darter at spring flow s as low as 60 cfs.
“I don’t care what we do, Fish & Wildlife would never think we do enough,” Beldon said.
“You can’t win in the position I'm in. If we end up in court, so be it.”
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