College Increases Heating Budget

In the wake of rising natural gas and oil prices magnified by Hurricane Katrina, Harvard has raised its budget for heating for the upcoming winter to $3.4 million, compared with $3.1 million budgeted last year.

According to Faculty of Arts and Sciences (FAS) Assistant Dean for Physical Resources Michael Lichten, the College went over budget last year and actually spent $3.3 million on heating, so the actual cost this winter might be even higher.

“We are in the process of looking at how the various rate increases in natural gas and oil will affect our budget,” Lichten said.

After Hurricane Katrina damaged oil refineries in the Gulf Coast region, the price of heating oil rose to more than $2 per gallon, compared with $1.70 per gallon in July, according to a letter sent to the leaders of the Senate Appropriations Committee last month.

Natural gas prices also rose by 140 percent from last year. The letter, signed by 41 senators, urged the committee to allocate $1.276 billion through the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program to alleviate the costs for home heating.

Even before the hurricane, the Energy Information Administration had predicted a 16 percent increase in heating oil costs this winter, coming after a 34 percent increase last winter, the senators wrote in the letter, dated Sept. 20.

To account for the rising natural gas and oil costs, utility companies all over the United States have increased rates for service.

“Prior to Hurricane Katrina’s devastation in the Gulf region, Americans were facing record prices for oil, natural gas, and propane. Hurricane Katrina damaged platforms and ports and curtailed production at refineries in the Gulf of Mexico, the source of almost a third of U.S. oil output,” the senators wrote in the letter.

The letter was signed by both Massachusetts senators, Sen. Edward M. Kennedy ’54-’56 and Sen. John F. Kerry.

Lichten said the FAS Office of Physical Resources is urging all students to be energy conscious in light of the increases in heating costs. The office will continue to work with the Green Campus Initiative (GCI), an interfaculty organization that promotes environmental sustainability, including the efficient management of energy.

“We are not doing anything different this year. However, we are still advocating energy efficiency, behavioral changes, and better building performance,” said Maura Healy, the coordinator of the FAS Campus Energy Reduction Program.

The Resource Efficiency Program, a subset of the GCI, trains students to educate their peers about environmental issues.

The program is “educating Harvard’s residents on heating and energy conservation amongst other things,” according to coordinator Allison I. Rogers ’04.

Lichten suggested that students keep windows closed when the heat is on, turn off lights, computer monitors, and computers when not being used, and take shorter showers.