Horizon, Host: Ted Simons

April 19, 2006


Host: Michael Grant

Congressman Pastor


  • Arizona Democratic Congressman Ed Pastor will talk about the issues Congress is dealing with right now.
Guests:
  • Representative Ed Pastor -
  • Christina Estes - spokesperson, AAA


View Transcript
Michael Grant:
Tonight on Horizon. It's a week of recess on Capitol Hill. And before lawmakers return to Washington, we get one more visit from a member of the Arizona delegation. Congressman Ed Pastor joins us tonight to talk about national and state issues. Then, Arizona continues to deal with a very serious drought. See what kind of effect it's having on our desert. And, serious is one way to describe our rising gasoline prices. We'll talk to the AAA about the fast-rising prices and how long this could last this time. All this next on Horizon.

Announcer:
Horizon is made possible by the contributions from the friends of 8. Members of your Arizona PBS station. Thank you.

Michael Grant:
Good evening, I'm Michael Grant. Welcome to Horizon. This week is the last week of the federal legislative recess. Congressmen and senators will head back to Washington for another session of debates, proposed bills and legislative voting. But before he returns to the capitol, Congressman Ed Pastor joins us tonight to talk about various issues. Congressman, good to see you again.

Rep. Ed Pastor:
Good to see you, Mike.

Michael Grant:
Large spring break?

Rep. Ed Pastor:
We had an extra week for Saint Patrick's. That's the first time we had it. But usually the Easter break runs for a couple of weeks so we had an extra week in March for St. Patrick's Day. We were out celebrating with Mike Gallagher and all the good guys.

Michael Grant:
All the good Irish guys. You were at the immigration rally on April 10.

Rep. Ed Pastor:
Right. Right.

Michael Grant:
That was a pretty formidable gathering of populace.

Rep. Ed Pastor:
Well, when people said we were going to get 100,000, you kind of say, well- to have 100,000, that's a lot of people. I've been to a lot of marches and I've been to sporting events. 100,000 I've seen out at PIR for The NASCAR races. That's a lot of people. We drove to the coliseum. We went through the back way to get there. I was just astonished at just the number of people inside the Coliseum where the parking lot of the coliseum and people that were waiting to begin the march on 19th avenue and Grand Avenue. And then as we marched all the way down to the capitol, the people were three to four people deep along the route. And I was just amazed at how well it was organized and the enthusiasm that we found.

Michael Grant:
It seems to me the one a few weeks back on 24th street, this one possibly-- we'll see what happens in relation to the May 1st one. Has taken this issue up at least one level and maybe two or three. I think on both sides. What's your feel for the political impact going on the past few weeks?

Rep. Ed Pastor:
First let me talk about May 1st. They're already looking at May 1st because people took time off for the march event, most people took time off for the April 10th event. I think workers are saying, my boss was good enough to let me go so maybe we'll do different things on May 1st. Have candlelight vigils and that kind of event. So it will not be as big as people had hoped to be because people are saying, hey, we'd better wait. Yes. It's going to have both effects. Yesterday I had a debate with the head of the minutemen with CEOs. And he said that what his experience is, that his e-mail and telephone were people wanting to join up because they were tired of these marches. But the other was that-- I think it had an impact. I think the first march in March basically sent a message in the Senate. I think people looked at it and said, you know, this issue now has gotten a lot bigger. And I think that's why the Leader Frist decided to bring that week.

Michael Grant:
What is Ed Pastor's view of what a good immigration bill would look like passed by both Houses of congress?

Rep. Ed Pastor:
I support the bill that's being promoted by senator Kennedy and senator McCain, Jim Colby, Geoff Blake and Luis Gutierrez, better known as the McCain-Kennedy Bill.

Michael Grant:
Right.

Rep. Ed Pastor:
Number one, the first issue title one of the bill deals with border security. It says we will provide resources for additional manpower, additional technology, the cards that won't be-- you can't copy them. So title I of the bill that we are supporting talks about border security.

Michael Grant:
Right.

Rep. Ed Pastor:
Then it says if there needs to be, we will develop a guest worker program. And then it has a process in which people can apply. Employer shows a job, an employee willing to work and then there's a process.

Michael Grant:
Right.

Rep. Ed Pastor:
And then the third part deals with the 11 million people who are here undocumented. If you want to talk about homeland security, you would think that you wanted to know of these 11 million who they are, what they're doing. And so for security reasons we ought to do it and also for humane reasons.

Michael Grant:
Should there be a part 4? Should there be a part 4? Okay. We've set up a reasonable, rational, long-term goal, both to get people here illegally a pathway to citizenship as well as to an uniform manner admit more. We've secured the border. If you don't follow our plan you're guilty of a crime.

Rep. Ed Pastor:
Well, Part 4 would be-- well, if you don't follow the plan and you conduct yourself in an unlawful way, within those six years that they're testing you, yes, you're exposing yourself. And if you don't follow the pathway, you become deportable. So that's part of the process. It's a probationary period. You pay a fine and then you start the process. At the end of three years--

Michael Grant:
What if you sneak across the border, though, after this is put in effect. Should that be a felony or misdemeanor or something?

Rep. Ed Pastor:
Well, I don't think it would be a felony. I would not support-- that was the issue with Sensenbrener that made it a felony. And I see it as a status crime. That's what it is. And, hopefully that by the guest worker program and by the pathway to legalization that that would minimize the desire to come across. You asked me about Part 4. You know what my Part 4 would be?

Michael Grant:
What's that?

Rep. Ed Pastor:
Vicente Fox, and the governor of Mexico received $18 million in remissions per year. $18 million.

Michael Grant:
Money sent back from USA to the home country.

Rep. Ed Pastor:
So there's an economic incentive. As you know, Vicente Fox says I want you to take care of my heroes in the United States.

Michael Grant:
Yes.

Rep. Ed Pastor:
Vicente Fox also has said that if there is a program that would allow order to the border in terms of guest worker program and would allow a pathway to legalization for the 7 or 8 million Mexicans that are here, an arrangement through a treaty or a treatment that Mexico then would take the responsibility of defending or securing--

Michael Grant:
Securing its side of the border?

Rep. Ed Pastor:
Securing its side of the border. And I was disappointed to be honest with you. Maybe it was worked out and hasn't been announced that when the president was in Cancun that something like this could have been worked out.

Michael Grant:
Okay. Congressman pastor, you and I think about 190 other democrats in the house voted against an amendment that would have reduced the Sensenbrener bill.

Rep. Ed Pastor: We felt it was still a criminalization situation. And the problem Sensenbrener was having is that he was not getting the support of the moderates if he kept that as a-- as a first class felony. So he thought that he would bring it down to a misdemeanor, which basically still the criminalization. I think that was probably the philosophy that we didn't want to criminalize the situation. We see it more as a status-- a status crime than a felony or a criminal misdemeanor.

Michael Grant:
Let me touch on both of those.

Rep. Ed Pastor:
Sure.

Michael Grant:
Was there also a political aspect to this?

Rep. Ed Pastor:
Sure. Sure.

Michael Grant:
Democrats think that they can hang this like an albatross around republicans.

Rep. Ed Pastor:
And they have because when Sensenbrener -- That was the reason for marches. People said I don't want my dad to be declared a criminal just because he's here undocumented.

Michael Grant:
And second question, again returning to something we just talked about. If you get a plan in place to say, here's how you can do it legally, why isn't it appropriate at whatever level to say to people, if you-- it has to have some teeth. If you break it now, we're going to charge you with a crime.

Rep. Ed Pastor:
Well, if you break it now you are now deportable. I mean, that would be-- if you are here--

Michael Grant:
Don't you think a stronger message, don't come across that border illegally if you criminalize is it in some fashion?

Rep. Ed Pastor:
I don't know whether that would cause somebody down in Chiapas to say it's gone from a Status crime to a felony. But it would allow somebody on this pathway to say, you have now some requirements. And if you deviate from those requirements, like in a probation period in if you deviate the consequence is that we will not allow you to remain in this country. I think that's a bigger incentive to make sure the people on this pathway continue to live here and learn English, make sure they pay their taxes and do not conduct themselves in a criminal manner.

Michael Grant:
All right. Congressman Ed Pastor, we appreciate you joining us.

Rep. Ed Pastor:
Thank you.

Michael Grant:
Fly carefully back to Washington.

Rep. Ed Pastor:
I will. Thank you very much.

Michael Grant:
The winter of 2005-2006 could go into the record books as the driest ever, the year the winter rains never came. It's all part of a severe dry period that began 10-years ago, approaching epic drought proportions of the 1950's. Tony Paniagua has more on what is shaping up to be a very serious situation.

Tony Paniagua:
You know the desert has been extra dry when even the native plants are having a tough time. Many prickly pears and other specimens are showing significant signs of stress, which will only be released by rainfall. But that isn't expected anytime soon.

George Montgomery:
Very wrinkled flesh. The pads are very thin, yellowed compared to the well-watered prickly pear. So the plant has almost a wilted appearance to it, which is surprising to think of with a cactus. But definitely shows in prickly pears without the rain of the last few months.

Tony Paniagua:
George Montgomery is a curator of botany at the Arizona Sonora desert museum west of Tucson. He's lived in the southwest all of his life and these dry conditions are some of the worst he's witnessed.

George Montgomery:
This winter is extremely dry. We're seeing some of the same conditions we did for a couple of summers and the jojobas were even dropping leaves. An amount of-- jojobas, prickly pears died around the ground. Palo Verde even started yellowing, dropping twigs and then whole branches if it continues.

Tony Paniagua:
Here's an example with a Brittle brush. This lush and healthy plant at the museum receives supplemental water but a few feet away another one does not. It is struggling for survival. Scientists rate our condition as extreme. A d 4 is the worst on the U.S. drought monitor. This other graph shows a rainfall deficit of more than 4 inches in the past few months in southern Arizona. Normally the Tucson metropolitan Area gets about 12 inches per year.

Glen Sampson: Well from the September through January period, Tucson has had the least amount of rain ever in our record. And Tucson records start at around 1894. So we're looking over 110 years where we've had the driest Period from September through January, which is fairly significant.

Tony Paniagua:
These dry conditions are causing special concern for people who have to battle wild fires because at higher elevations the saguaro and other cacti get replaced by pine trees and other vegetation, which is also very dry and can burn easily. So the U.S. forest service has obtained additional personnel and fronts to try and deal with this drought, which is only expected to get worse in the next few weeks. The high probability of abnormal precipitation poses a challenge to utility companies, which are pushing conservation. The less rain we get the more likely people will use more water, and therefore they decrease the supply.

Glen Sampson:
So when you miss the winter rains it tends to keep the vegetation drier and drier conditions are quite prevalent as we go into the springtime where we start heating up and warming up and actually drying out more.

George Montgomery:
Supplemental water I think is a good way to help keep your things going until the rains come.

Tony Paniagua:
So as you look around it's pretty different from last winter, isn't it?

George Montgomery:
So different. Last winter was fabulous. All-- many plants in flower last year. Very different this year.

Tony Paniagua:
Fortunately the Sonoran Desert and its inhabitants have evolved for many years and cyclical droughts have been part of the picture. So some plants may be destroyed by the dry conditions. But generally speaking, this habitat should be able to stand up to this natural challenge.

Michael Grant:
And speaking of serious situations, another one in our state and the nation for that matter is the rising cost of gasoline. Prices have fluctuated up and down for a year now and currently Arizona drivers are paying a whopping 46 cents more per gallon than they were a month ago. In a moment we'll talk about why prices are the way they are. Some things we can do to save gas. First here's a look at how average gas prices are measuring up.

Merry Lucero:
As we head towards summer, gas prices have been steadily on the rise. Arizona motorists are now paying prices approaching the all-time high they were paying 7 months ago. Some stations are charging more than $3 a gallon and some drivers are paying more than $60 to fill up thundershower tanks. AAA Arizona breaks it down. The national average today is 2.86 a gallon compared to 2.50 a month ago and 2.22-- it was 2.43 a month ago and 2.37 a year ago. In the Phoenix metro area the current average is 2.83 a gallon while just a month ago it was only 2.37 and 2.38 a year ago. The news for summer? Not good. Gasoline prices are expected to range upwards to as much as 20 more cents a gallon from current levels and if there is a major supply disruption like a hurricane, prices will likely rise even higher and motorists will feel even more of a squeeze at the pumps.

Michael Grant:
Joining us tonight to talk about the rising price of gas and what it means for us today for how long is Christina Estes. She is the local spokesperson For AAA. Christina--

Christina Estes:
Don't shoot the messenger, Okay?

Michael Grant:
You have got some explaining to do, as they say. All of us may not have been too happy about it but you could look back to September-October of last year and say, well, okay. Katrina, to a lesser extent Rita hit some of this country's heaviest not only oil production but also oil refining areas-- Hurricane Katrina-- knocked down a certain amount of its capacity. All right. The prices are going up. What's happened in April that we're missing because of these kinds of spikes?

Christina Estes:
Well first for some people there's no good reason. So I understand that. I can tell you what we're seeing and what we're hearing. There really is some fear among traders. Crude oil closed today at a record above $72 a barrel. Put that in perspective. After hurricane Katrina-- two years ago we were looking at $50 a barrel talking about, wow, prices are really high. There's a lot of uncertainty, fear, some would say hysteria among traders for several reasons. One has to do with what should be-- what we typically refer to as routine refinery maintenance. Every spring refineries takes some equipment offline to conduct routine maintenance before the busy summer season. This year is different on a couple of fronts. We still have three refineries along the Gulf coast who are not yet fully back online from last fall. We have supply issues.

Michael Grant:
Because they needed to kick out more supply to replace damaged capacity at that point in time so they didn't go through thundershower fall maintenance cycle.

Christina Estes:
Now they need to do that on top of their regular spring maintenance. We are seeing some new environmental regulations. Refineries need to eliminate an additive called mtvb-- they're replacing that with ethanol, which provides cleaner burning oil. We are seeing that along the east coast some issues with. While that maintenance period is taking place with a longer period, we are also drawing down on our gasoline inventories. That does not mean we have any supply shortage. Plenty of supply there but we're drawing down on those inventories which has traders concerned. Then geopolitics is an issue.

Michael Grant:
International issues and certainly Iran, the Middle East, generally Iraq, those kinds of things?

Christina Estes:
Yes. Again I understand because some of these issues have been going on for several weeks so people say that shouldn't be the reason. This is again some issues that people are pointing to. Nigeria militants there have attacked oil production facilities and cut their oil production about 25\%, 500,000-barrels a day. Nigeria is the fifth largest oil exporter to the United States. The situation in Iran is really tense right now. The international community is watching. Iran recently announced that they successfully enriched Uranium. The United States and some other countries are afraid Iran wants to make nuclear weapons. The UN told them to some. Iran said we're not stopping. UN gave them an April 25 deadline.

Michael Grant:
Sanctions most likely to take the form of sanctions on oil? Is their concern?

Christina Estes:
The United States is trying to get the international community to support some sanctions. We right now, we don't get any oil from Iran. But the problem is, Iran is the world's fourth largest oil exporter, 2.5 million-barrels a day. So if like some fear Iran might retaliate by with withholding some of their supply, that means the folks who count on Iran for their oil, are then going to be looking where we get ours. And there's huge worldwide demand.

Michael Grant:
Puts demand pressures elsewhere. How do we stack up against the rest of the country in terms of prices we're seeing currently at the pump?

Christina Estes:
We're right around. The national average is 2.80. In Phoenix today we're paying 2.83. It's not outrageous although I understand it certainly is to some people. What's interesting, we are seeing some stations where it's $3 a gallon and slightly higher. And some people may not want to necessarily buy into this. But our retailers actually in Phoenix and Mesa, so far this year, are actually among the top 25 least profitable markets. So the retailers here, while the prices are going up, aren't making a ton of money off of us.

Michael Grant:
Yeah, the wholesale prices, you were giving me some stats in terms of the range of wholesale prices plus of course all the taxes that are added to a gallon of gas. It leaves a fairly thin retail margin.

Christina Estes:
The wholesale prices then range anywhere from 2.30 to 2.70. So right now it's a boom time for refineries. So they're able to sell that gas to the retailers at that price. Retailers have to add taxes, federal and state. There's nothing they can do about that. In Arizona it's about 37 cents. So you add that .37 on top of the 2.30 to 2.70 they're paying. That doesn't give them much of a profit margin. In some cases they say that they're losing money.

Michael Grant:
Now, what about this we expect another 20-cent uptick going into the summer. What's that all about?

Christina Estes:
What's interesting is the U.S. Energy department is not predicting a national average of $3. But there's a little caveat there. They don't want to say $3 an average because they don't expect that to be long-term meaning about a month. I don't know about you but if I go to the gas station and it's 3 bucks a gallon one day, one month, that's 3 bucks a gallon. It's not going to catch us by surprise if we hit $3 at some point in Arizona for regular unleaded. Our hope is that prices will peak by Labor Day-- I'm sorry by Memorial Day and then stabilize through the summer and then after Labor Day start to decline. We know that prices typically rise in the summer because demand is up about 6\% more than the rest of the year.

Michael Grant:
Okay. Any supply concerns at all? I mean, we've talked about things that could constrict supply. But for those of us, you know, at the pump, remembering a couple, three summers ago when that wasn't real pleasant, any concerns just with the supply being available in the near-term?

Christina Estes:
Yeah. No supply problems right now. Again, where some of that fear is what's going to happen internationally and with our hurricane season. What sort of a hurricane season are we going to have?

Michael Grant:
Yes. And obviously the past two have not been very pleasant. Unfortunately the temperatures in the gulf not indicating that this --

Christina Estes:
Smooth sailing?

Michael Grant:
Right. Gas saving tips?

Christina Estes:
People feel like they can't do anything but you really do have more power in terms of what you do and what you drive. I tend to use my trunk as a storage area. Get rid of that. That's going to widen your load. If your tires are properly inflated you can improve your gas mileage by three\%. If you're one of those people darting in and out of lanes and starting, stopping, that sort of thing, stop doing that. You could save up to 6\% on your mileage.

Michael Grant:
Okay. Christina Estes, thank you very much. You can check on what will be on future Horizons or take a look at the transcript of tonight's show by going to our website at www.azpbs.org, click on Horizon. You'll find it in the middle of the page.

Mike Sauceda:
Former EPA chief and governor of New Jersey, Christine Todd Whitman will talk about political issues on Horizon during her visit. Economic growth is continuing in the Valley but is changing in the way it's occurring. Growth was the topic of the latest town hall. Get more on both topics Thursday at 7 on Horizon.

Michael Grant:
Please join Horizonte tomorrow for a look at diabetes; the effects on Hispanics and of course the Friday Journalists' Roundtable. Thank you very much for being here this evening. I'm Michael Grant. Hope you have a great one. Good night. [Music]

Announcer:
Horizon is made possible by contributions from the friends of eight, members of your Arizona PBS station. Thank you. Eight is a service of Arizona State University, supported by viewers like you. Thank you.

Rising Gasoline Prices


Guests:
  • Representative Ed Pastor -
  • Christina Estes - spokesperson, AAA


View Transcript
Michael Grant:
Tonight on Horizon. It's a week of recess on Capitol Hill. And before lawmakers return to Washington, we get one more visit from a member of the Arizona delegation. Congressman Ed Pastor joins us tonight to talk about national and state issues. Then, Arizona continues to deal with a very serious drought. See what kind of effect it's having on our desert. And, serious is one way to describe our rising gasoline prices. We'll talk to the AAA about the fast-rising prices and how long this could last this time. All this next on Horizon.

Announcer:
Horizon is made possible by the contributions from the friends of 8. Members of your Arizona PBS station. Thank you.

Michael Grant:
Good evening, I'm Michael Grant. Welcome to Horizon. This week is the last week of the federal legislative recess. Congressmen and senators will head back to Washington for another session of debates, proposed bills and legislative voting. But before he returns to the capitol, Congressman Ed Pastor joins us tonight to talk about various issues. Congressman, good to see you again.

Rep. Ed Pastor:
Good to see you, Mike.

Michael Grant:
Large spring break?

Rep. Ed Pastor:
We had an extra week for Saint Patrick's. That's the first time we had it. But usually the Easter break runs for a couple of weeks so we had an extra week in March for St. Patrick's Day. We were out celebrating with Mike Gallagher and all the good guys.

Michael Grant:
All the good Irish guys. You were at the immigration rally on April 10.

Rep. Ed Pastor:
Right. Right.

Michael Grant:
That was a pretty formidable gathering of populace.

Rep. Ed Pastor:
Well, when people said we were going to get 100,000, you kind of say, well- to have 100,000, that's a lot of people. I've been to a lot of marches and I've been to sporting events. 100,000 I've seen out at PIR for The NASCAR races. That's a lot of people. We drove to the coliseum. We went through the back way to get there. I was just astonished at just the number of people inside the Coliseum where the parking lot of the coliseum and people that were waiting to begin the march on 19th avenue and Grand Avenue. And then as we marched all the way down to the capitol, the people were three to four people deep along the route. And I was just amazed at how well it was organized and the enthusiasm that we found.

Michael Grant:
It seems to me the one a few weeks back on 24th street, this one possibly-- we'll see what happens in relation to the May 1st one. Has taken this issue up at least one level and maybe two or three. I think on both sides. What's your feel for the political impact going on the past few weeks?

Rep. Ed Pastor:
First let me talk about May 1st. They're already looking at May 1st because people took time off for the march event, most people took time off for the April 10th event. I think workers are saying, my boss was good enough to let me go so maybe we'll do different things on May 1st. Have candlelight vigils and that kind of event. So it will not be as big as people had hoped to be because people are saying, hey, we'd better wait. Yes. It's going to have both effects. Yesterday I had a debate with the head of the minutemen with CEOs. And he said that what his experience is, that his e-mail and telephone were people wanting to join up because they were tired of these marches. But the other was that-- I think it had an impact. I think the first march in March basically sent a message in the Senate. I think people looked at it and said, you know, this issue now has gotten a lot bigger. And I think that's why the Leader Frist decided to bring that week.

Michael Grant:
What is Ed Pastor's view of what a good immigration bill would look like passed by both Houses of congress?

Rep. Ed Pastor:
I support the bill that's being promoted by senator Kennedy and senator McCain, Jim Colby, Geoff Blake and Luis Gutierrez, better known as the McCain-Kennedy Bill.

Michael Grant:
Right.

Rep. Ed Pastor:
Number one, the first issue title one of the bill deals with border security. It says we will provide resources for additional manpower, additional technology, the cards that won't be-- you can't copy them. So title I of the bill that we are supporting talks about border security.

Michael Grant:
Right.

Rep. Ed Pastor:
Then it says if there needs to be, we will develop a guest worker program. And then it has a process in which people can apply. Employer shows a job, an employee willing to work and then there's a process.

Michael Grant:
Right.

Rep. Ed Pastor:
And then the third part deals with the 11 million people who are here undocumented. If you want to talk about homeland security, you would think that you wanted to know of these 11 million who they are, what they're doing. And so for security reasons we ought to do it and also for humane reasons.

Michael Grant:
Should there be a part 4? Should there be a part 4? Okay. We've set up a reasonable, rational, long-term goal, both to get people here illegally a pathway to citizenship as well as to an uniform manner admit more. We've secured the border. If you don't follow our plan you're guilty of a crime.

Rep. Ed Pastor:
Well, Part 4 would be-- well, if you don't follow the plan and you conduct yourself in an unlawful way, within those six years that they're testing you, yes, you're exposing yourself. And if you don't follow the pathway, you become deportable. So that's part of the process. It's a probationary period. You pay a fine and then you start the process. At the end of three years--

Michael Grant:
What if you sneak across the border, though, after this is put in effect. Should that be a felony or misdemeanor or something?

Rep. Ed Pastor:
Well, I don't think it would be a felony. I would not support-- that was the issue with Sensenbrener that made it a felony. And I see it as a status crime. That's what it is. And, hopefully that by the guest worker program and by the pathway to legalization that that would minimize the desire to come across. You asked me about Part 4. You know what my Part 4 would be?

Michael Grant:
What's that?

Rep. Ed Pastor:
Vicente Fox, and the governor of Mexico received $18 million in remissions per year. $18 million.

Michael Grant:
Money sent back from USA to the home country.

Rep. Ed Pastor:
So there's an economic incentive. As you know, Vicente Fox says I want you to take care of my heroes in the United States.

Michael Grant:
Yes.

Rep. Ed Pastor:
Vicente Fox also has said that if there is a program that would allow order to the border in terms of guest worker program and would allow a pathway to legalization for the 7 or 8 million Mexicans that are here, an arrangement through a treaty or a treatment that Mexico then would take the responsibility of defending or securing--

Michael Grant:
Securing its side of the border?

Rep. Ed Pastor:
Securing its side of the border. And I was disappointed to be honest with you. Maybe it was worked out and hasn't been announced that when the president was in Cancun that something like this could have been worked out.

Michael Grant:
Okay. Congressman pastor, you and I think about 190 other democrats in the house voted against an amendment that would have reduced the Sensenbrener bill.

Rep. Ed Pastor: We felt it was still a criminalization situation. And the problem Sensenbrener was having is that he was not getting the support of the moderates if he kept that as a-- as a first class felony. So he thought that he would bring it down to a misdemeanor, which basically still the criminalization. I think that was probably the philosophy that we didn't want to criminalize the situation. We see it more as a status-- a status crime than a felony or a criminal misdemeanor.

Michael Grant:
Let me touch on both of those.

Rep. Ed Pastor:
Sure.

Michael Grant:
Was there also a political aspect to this?

Rep. Ed Pastor:
Sure. Sure.

Michael Grant:
Democrats think that they can hang this like an albatross around republicans.

Rep. Ed Pastor:
And they have because when Sensenbrener -- That was the reason for marches. People said I don't want my dad to be declared a criminal just because he's here undocumented.

Michael Grant:
And second question, again returning to something we just talked about. If you get a plan in place to say, here's how you can do it legally, why isn't it appropriate at whatever level to say to people, if you-- it has to have some teeth. If you break it now, we're going to charge you with a crime.

Rep. Ed Pastor:
Well, if you break it now you are now deportable. I mean, that would be-- if you are here--

Michael Grant:
Don't you think a stronger message, don't come across that border illegally if you criminalize is it in some fashion?

Rep. Ed Pastor:
I don't know whether that would cause somebody down in Chiapas to say it's gone from a Status crime to a felony. But it would allow somebody on this pathway to say, you have now some requirements. And if you deviate from those requirements, like in a probation period in if you deviate the consequence is that we will not allow you to remain in this country. I think that's a bigger incentive to make sure the people on this pathway continue to live here and learn English, make sure they pay their taxes and do not conduct themselves in a criminal manner.

Michael Grant:
All right. Congressman Ed Pastor, we appreciate you joining us.

Rep. Ed Pastor:
Thank you.

Michael Grant:
Fly carefully back to Washington.

Rep. Ed Pastor:
I will. Thank you very much.

Michael Grant:
The winter of 2005-2006 could go into the record books as the driest ever, the year the winter rains never came. It's all part of a severe dry period that began 10-years ago, approaching epic drought proportions of the 1950's. Tony Paniagua has more on what is shaping up to be a very serious situation.

Tony Paniagua:
You know the desert has been extra dry when even the native plants are having a tough time. Many prickly pears and other specimens are showing significant signs of stress, which will only be released by rainfall. But that isn't expected anytime soon.

George Montgomery:
Very wrinkled flesh. The pads are very thin, yellowed compared to the well-watered prickly pear. So the plant has almost a wilted appearance to it, which is surprising to think of with a cactus. But definitely shows in prickly pears without the rain of the last few months.

Tony Paniagua:
George Montgomery is a curator of botany at the Arizona Sonora desert museum west of Tucson. He's lived in the southwest all of his life and these dry conditions are some of the worst he's witnessed.

George Montgomery:
This winter is extremely dry. We're seeing some of the same conditions we did for a couple of summers and the jojobas were even dropping leaves. An amount of-- jojobas, prickly pears died around the ground. Palo Verde even started yellowing, dropping twigs and then whole branches if it continues.

Tony Paniagua:
Here's an example with a Brittle brush. This lush and healthy plant at the museum receives supplemental water but a few feet away another one does not. It is struggling for survival. Scientists rate our condition as extreme. A d 4 is the worst on the U.S. drought monitor. This other graph shows a rainfall deficit of more than 4 inches in the past few months in southern Arizona. Normally the Tucson metropolitan Area gets about 12 inches per year.

Glen Sampson: Well from the September through January period, Tucson has had the least amount of rain ever in our record. And Tucson records start at around 1894. So we're looking over 110 years where we've had the driest Period from September through January, which is fairly significant.

Tony Paniagua:
These dry conditions are causing special concern for people who have to battle wild fires because at higher elevations the saguaro and other cacti get replaced by pine trees and other vegetation, which is also very dry and can burn easily. So the U.S. forest service has obtained additional personnel and fronts to try and deal with this drought, which is only expected to get worse in the next few weeks. The high probability of abnormal precipitation poses a challenge to utility companies, which are pushing conservation. The less rain we get the more likely people will use more water, and therefore they decrease the supply.

Glen Sampson:
So when you miss the winter rains it tends to keep the vegetation drier and drier conditions are quite prevalent as we go into the springtime where we start heating up and warming up and actually drying out more.

George Montgomery:
Supplemental water I think is a good way to help keep your things going until the rains come.

Tony Paniagua:
So as you look around it's pretty different from last winter, isn't it?

George Montgomery:
So different. Last winter was fabulous. All-- many plants in flower last year. Very different this year.

Tony Paniagua:
Fortunately the Sonoran Desert and its inhabitants have evolved for many years and cyclical droughts have been part of the picture. So some plants may be destroyed by the dry conditions. But generally speaking, this habitat should be able to stand up to this natural challenge.

Michael Grant:
And speaking of serious situations, another one in our state and the nation for that matter is the rising cost of gasoline. Prices have fluctuated up and down for a year now and currently Arizona drivers are paying a whopping 46 cents more per gallon than they were a month ago. In a moment we'll talk about why prices are the way they are. Some things we can do to save gas. First here's a look at how average gas prices are measuring up.

Merry Lucero:
As we head towards summer, gas prices have been steadily on the rise. Arizona motorists are now paying prices approaching the all-time high they were paying 7 months ago. Some stations are charging more than $3 a gallon and some drivers are paying more than $60 to fill up thundershower tanks. AAA Arizona breaks it down. The national average today is 2.86 a gallon compared to 2.50 a month ago and 2.22-- it was 2.43 a month ago and 2.37 a year ago. In the Phoenix metro area the current average is 2.83 a gallon while just a month ago it was only 2.37 and 2.38 a year ago. The news for summer? Not good. Gasoline prices are expected to range upwards to as much as 20 more cents a gallon from current levels and if there is a major supply disruption like a hurricane, prices will likely rise even higher and motorists will feel even more of a squeeze at the pumps.

Michael Grant:
Joining us tonight to talk about the rising price of gas and what it means for us today for how long is Christina Estes. She is the local spokesperson For AAA. Christina--

Christina Estes:
Don't shoot the messenger, Okay?

Michael Grant:
You have got some explaining to do, as they say. All of us may not have been too happy about it but you could look back to September-October of last year and say, well, okay. Katrina, to a lesser extent Rita hit some of this country's heaviest not only oil production but also oil refining areas-- Hurricane Katrina-- knocked down a certain amount of its capacity. All right. The prices are going up. What's happened in April that we're missing because of these kinds of spikes?

Christina Estes:
Well first for some people there's no good reason. So I understand that. I can tell you what we're seeing and what we're hearing. There really is some fear among traders. Crude oil closed today at a record above $72 a barrel. Put that in perspective. After hurricane Katrina-- two years ago we were looking at $50 a barrel talking about, wow, prices are really high. There's a lot of uncertainty, fear, some would say hysteria among traders for several reasons. One has to do with what should be-- what we typically refer to as routine refinery maintenance. Every spring refineries takes some equipment offline to conduct routine maintenance before the busy summer season. This year is different on a couple of fronts. We still have three refineries along the Gulf coast who are not yet fully back online from last fall. We have supply issues.

Michael Grant:
Because they needed to kick out more supply to replace damaged capacity at that point in time so they didn't go through thundershower fall maintenance cycle.

Christina Estes:
Now they need to do that on top of their regular spring maintenance. We are seeing some new environmental regulations. Refineries need to eliminate an additive called mtvb-- they're replacing that with ethanol, which provides cleaner burning oil. We are seeing that along the east coast some issues with. While that maintenance period is taking place with a longer period, we are also drawing down on our gasoline inventories. That does not mean we have any supply shortage. Plenty of supply there but we're drawing down on those inventories which has traders concerned. Then geopolitics is an issue.

Michael Grant:
International issues and certainly Iran, the Middle East, generally Iraq, those kinds of things?

Christina Estes:
Yes. Again I understand because some of these issues have been going on for several weeks so people say that shouldn't be the reason. This is again some issues that people are pointing to. Nigeria militants there have attacked oil production facilities and cut their oil production about 25\%, 500,000-barrels a day. Nigeria is the fifth largest oil exporter to the United States. The situation in Iran is really tense right now. The international community is watching. Iran recently announced that they successfully enriched Uranium. The United States and some other countries are afraid Iran wants to make nuclear weapons. The UN told them to some. Iran said we're not stopping. UN gave them an April 25 deadline.

Michael Grant:
Sanctions most likely to take the form of sanctions on oil? Is their concern?

Christina Estes:
The United States is trying to get the international community to support some sanctions. We right now, we don't get any oil from Iran. But the problem is, Iran is the world's fourth largest oil exporter, 2.5 million-barrels a day. So if like some fear Iran might retaliate by with withholding some of their supply, that means the folks who count on Iran for their oil, are then going to be looking where we get ours. And there's huge worldwide demand.

Michael Grant:
Puts demand pressures elsewhere. How do we stack up against the rest of the country in terms of prices we're seeing currently at the pump?

Christina Estes:
We're right around. The national average is 2.80. In Phoenix today we're paying 2.83. It's not outrageous although I understand it certainly is to some people. What's interesting, we are seeing some stations where it's $3 a gallon and slightly higher. And some people may not want to necessarily buy into this. But our retailers actually in Phoenix and Mesa, so far this year, are actually among the top 25 least profitable markets. So the retailers here, while the prices are going up, aren't making a ton of money off of us.

Michael Grant:
Yeah, the wholesale prices, you were giving me some stats in terms of the range of wholesale prices plus of course all the taxes that are added to a gallon of gas. It leaves a fairly thin retail margin.

Christina Estes:
The wholesale prices then range anywhere from 2.30 to 2.70. So right now it's a boom time for refineries. So they're able to sell that gas to the retailers at that price. Retailers have to add taxes, federal and state. There's nothing they can do about that. In Arizona it's about 37 cents. So you add that .37 on top of the 2.30 to 2.70 they're paying. That doesn't give them much of a profit margin. In some cases they say that they're losing money.

Michael Grant:
Now, what about this we expect another 20-cent uptick going into the summer. What's that all about?

Christina Estes:
What's interesting is the U.S. Energy department is not predicting a national average of $3. But there's a little caveat there. They don't want to say $3 an average because they don't expect that to be long-term meaning about a month. I don't know about you but if I go to the gas station and it's 3 bucks a gallon one day, one month, that's 3 bucks a gallon. It's not going to catch us by surprise if we hit $3 at some point in Arizona for regular unleaded. Our hope is that prices will peak by Labor Day-- I'm sorry by Memorial Day and then stabilize through the summer and then after Labor Day start to decline. We know that prices typically rise in the summer because demand is up about 6\% more than the rest of the year.

Michael Grant:
Okay. Any supply concerns at all? I mean, we've talked about things that could constrict supply. But for those of us, you know, at the pump, remembering a couple, three summers ago when that wasn't real pleasant, any concerns just with the supply being available in the near-term?

Christina Estes:
Yeah. No supply problems right now. Again, where some of that fear is what's going to happen internationally and with our hurricane season. What sort of a hurricane season are we going to have?

Michael Grant:
Yes. And obviously the past two have not been very pleasant. Unfortunately the temperatures in the gulf not indicating that this --

Christina Estes:
Smooth sailing?

Michael Grant:
Right. Gas saving tips?

Christina Estes:
People feel like they can't do anything but you really do have more power in terms of what you do and what you drive. I tend to use my trunk as a storage area. Get rid of that. That's going to widen your load. If your tires are properly inflated you can improve your gas mileage by three\%. If you're one of those people darting in and out of lanes and starting, stopping, that sort of thing, stop doing that. You could save up to 6\% on your mileage.

Michael Grant:
Okay. Christina Estes, thank you very much. You can check on what will be on future Horizons or take a look at the transcript of tonight's show by going to our website at www.azpbs.org, click on Horizon. You'll find it in the middle of the page.

Mike Sauceda:
Former EPA chief and governor of New Jersey, Christine Todd Whitman will talk about political issues on Horizon during her visit. Economic growth is continuing in the Valley but is changing in the way it's occurring. Growth was the topic of the latest town hall. Get more on both topics Thursday at 7 on Horizon.

Michael Grant:
Please join Horizonte tomorrow for a look at diabetes; the effects on Hispanics and of course the Friday Journalists' Roundtable. Thank you very much for being here this evening. I'm Michael Grant. Hope you have a great one. Good night. [Music]

Announcer:
Horizon is made possible by contributions from the friends of eight, members of your Arizona PBS station. Thank you. Eight is a service of Arizona State University, supported by viewers like you. Thank you.

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