Horizon, Host: Ted Simons

June 26, 2006


Host: Michael Grant

GA$: A HORIZON Miniseries


  • Part one of four. What determines prices at the pump? How much of the cost of a gallon of gas pays for taxes and special blends? Why are prices volatile? HORIZON gives you the answers to these questions and more in this first installment of a four-part miniseries.
Guests:
  • Christina Estes - AAA Arizona
Category: Energy

View Transcript
Michael Grant:
Tonight on Horizon we start a four-part series on the importance of gasoline to the economy and our life styles. Hundreds of Latino-elected officials from around the country make their way to Dallas, Texas, to talk about issues affecting the nation's Latino community. We were there. And ASU researchers are tracking one of the Sonoran desert's most colorful residents, the Gila monster.

Michael Grant:
Good evening. Thanks for joining us on Horizon. I'm Michael Grant. Tonight we start a four part series on a substance that probably affects us more than any other single thing in our modern lives, gasoline. It's hard to believe, perhaps, only 100 years ago, people barely had a use for it. But today it is at the center of our energy needs.

Larry Lemmons:
The Phoenix metro area stretches from the streets of Apache Junction to beyond Buckeye. The grid of streets and highways is cluttered with gas-powered vehicles. Gasoline keeps the city on the go and a lot of it is used in any given day.

Joe Sparano:
In Arizona, you use about 10, 11 million gallons per day of gasoline, diesel, and jet fuel and gasoline is by far the largest, about 7 million gallons A day.

Larry Lemmons:
The valley is home to about 3 million people. And that number rises daily. Without a refinery nearby, that means Phoenix is essentially isolated in terms of gasoline. It's piped in from east and West.

Joe Sparano:
70\% each day of the gasoline diesel and jet that Arizona consumers use and businesses comes from California. And almost all of it comes from the California refineries located in Los Angeles area. It's carried by pipelines, about a six o-day trip. The other 30\% comes from New Mexico refineries, and west Texas refineries. There's a similar pipeline from West Texas through New Mexico into Tucson, linked up to Phoenix, and Maricopa County is far and away the highest demand area in Arizona.

Larry Lemmons:
Gas prices fluctuate for many reasons. But the valley experienced firsthand the effect of a gasoline crisis in the summer of 2003.

Joe Sparano:
In 2003, the pipeline around the Tucson area had a problem. It was shut down for 30, 40, 50 Days, considerable period of time. And the supply from the east dried up immediately. And the effect on the marketplace was to remove product. There was a panic buying as reinforced by an Arizona house investigative report that was published in 2003, Maricopa County consumers went from a little under 5 million gallons a day demand to 22. I think we just talked about seven-plus million gallons a day is the typical total state demand for a short period. Arizonans went out and bought around 22 million gallons a day and the calculation stems from trying to figure out what happens when people go from a quarter or a half filled tank to a full tank. And what people don't often understand is that the largest supply of inventory in the United States is in the automobiles, because most of us don't fill up at three-quarters or a half. We wait until it's a quarter or near in the end, then we fill. If everyone goes the same couple of days to go from a quarter to full or a half to full, puts a tremendous demand. So I'm trying to reflect the vulnerability that exists today with two pipelines that bring all the gasoline in.

Larry Lemmons:
Gas prices can be affected by taxes, special blends, or even geopolitical concerns across the world. Considering how many things actually can affect the cost of gasoline, it might not seem surprising then that prices are as volatile as they are.

Michael Grant:
Here now to tell us how gas prices are determined and why they are so volatile, Christina Estes from AAA Arizona. It's nice to have you back. You were making the comment in response 20 that last point on the tape some European nation, what do they do that they don't?

Christina Estes:
They require a certain number day supply of gas on hand. In the United States, we typically have anywhere from a 20 to 25-day supply of gasoline on hand so enough to cover everybody in the U.S. for that many days should something happen. It used to be not too long ago more than a 30-day supply. So there's no requirement by our government that says, hey, all you refineries you need to make sure you have this much gas on hand.

Michael Grant:
Is it our imagination -- Backed up incredible amounts of data here. Have the prices in the past -- I don't even know what time I want to put on this but certainly the past year, have they been more volatile than they used to be?

Christina Estes:
Certainly in the last couple of months here when I was here last time we were talking about how crazy the prices were. This is the first time -- well, we'll go back to last fall after the hurricanes. That was the first time that we were seeing $3 and up per gallon. This summer was the first time that we entered the season above $3 a gallon. So it's been a wild ride and one big part of that has to do with some environmental regulations for refineries. They needed to make some processing changes in order to include ethanol in their gasoline mixture so that was one big reason behind that. They weren't pumping out as much and people were still demanding the same amount.

Michael Grant:
Volatility contributors, we want to talk globally about this and then we will get more local. But certainly one of the things that indicates and drives volatility is supply. And there's -- you really can't boost supply a whole lot, at least on a momentary basis. Right?

Christina Estes:
Oil producers are pretty much producing at capacity right now. There's a very thin sort of surplus. OPEC predicts to increase that over the next couple of years but it's a pretty thin surplus That we've got because they are pumping out as much as we can and everybody has taken as much as they can.

Michael Grant:
So if you have an -- a sharp increase in demand, or you have a sharp loss of supply, as the case may be, obviously, one of the major contributing elements to price volatility?

Christina Estes:
Sure. If you and I want something and only one person has it, and we're going to fight over the price because we both want it, yeah.

Michael Grant:
What about the future speculation? How much of a role does that play in knit for that matter, badly perceived world events instability in the Middle East, whatever, you know, however you may want to fill in?

Christina Estes:
When it comes to the markets it's kind of depends on who you ask. You ask three different analysts their opinion and you kind of get three different answers. Some people believe that all of the speculation is behind our incredible increase in crude oil. It was a couple of years ago we thought $50 a barrel was outrageous and we have been trading between $68 and $73 a barrel for the last couple of months. Some people say, no, that's behind the stability we've seen over the last couple of months with it being between $68 and $73 a barrel. Geopolitics a. huge factor because people are watching what's going on in other parts of the world and deciding how much they think they can get in the future for their oil and their gas.

Michael Grant:
I know AAA surveys on all, a lot on this stuff. And regularly on this stuff. Let's pull it down to Arizona. Why will we find different prices in different areas of the State?

Christina Estes:
No easy answer. But here in Phoenix, we actually use a special blend year-round. Tucson does not use that special blend year-round so Tucson typically has cheaper gas prices than in Phoenix because they have a special blend and it typically costs a little more to make that blend. Flagstaff right now is the only metro area paying on average above $3 a gallon. One big reason has to do with it's difficult to get the Flagstaff to have a tanker go up some big hills compared to here in Phoenix. Another factor has to do frankly with neighborhoods. There have been studies done that compared sort of wealthier communities to maybe moderate income communities and the higher gas prices in those wealthier communities are much more easily absorbed than in middle class communities.

Michael Grant:
Yeah, you presaged my next question which was the valley of the sun. It's not unusual to find price swings from areas here in the valley, what, maybe 10 cents? A gallon? Perhaps more?

Christina Estes:
Today's average regular unleaded and Phoenix is $2.87. It was just last were where Scottsdale finally dropped below that $3 mark. So typically Scottsdale's prices are high are than other parts of the valley.

Michael Grant:
And is the most significant driver behind that is you sort of alluded to what the market will bear?

Christina Estes:
Uh-huh. Yeah. We know that typically Scottsdale is known as a wealthier community. But also it could be because the cost of doing business there is a little bit more. If you want to lease some space in Scottsdale probably cost you more than it may in another part of the east valley or the west valley.

Michael Grant:
What about the retail markup? I think last time you were here you actually said that triple a current data was indicating a fairly thin retail markup in Phoenix. Do I recall?

Christina Estes:
Remember when everybody was so outraged over the high gas prices? Really I felt bad for some. Service stations because people were bashing them and we had data at that time that showed Phoenix and Tucson actually were among, in the southwest, the least profitable gas stations. They were losing money, up to 10 Cents a gallon. Right now, my statistics that I have from last week show that Phoenix makes right now average, about 10 cents per gallon so they went from losing 10 cents per gallon to making 10 cents per gallon and the average is 12 To 14 cents. That's what they like to make kind off cross the board.

Michael Grant:
For many gas retailers, I mean don't they make, don't they count on, you know, a large fountain drinks candy bars and those kinds of things more for their profit -- they almost use gas as a loss leader?

Christina Estes:
Well, sometimes. And there are some who say that the Costco's and Sam's clubs and those places use them as loss leaders so they will be a penny or two less to get you into their store. But typically they try to have that sort of 12 to 14 cents buffer so that they know what to expect on a monthly basis and they know how to budget. But, yeah, if the gas prices are too high, you're not going to go in there and get that 44 ounce drink or that candy bar so that really is a double whammy for them.

Michael Grant:
Almost out of time but crystal ball gazing for the balance. Year --

Christina Estes:
How about summer? We can do summer better. Too many factors at play. We haven't had any hurricanes. So we know that the federal Government predicts the national gas average this summer to be $2.76 which is more than 30 cents higher than last summer. Arizona is typically higher than the national average so our gas prices have been dropping slowly for the last few weeks so that's good news. I don't expect any dramatic drops so anywhere from $2.80 to $2.85 through Labor Day would be reasonable.

Michael Grant:
Ok. Christina Estes, thank you very much.

Christina Estes:
You are welcome.

Michael Grant:
Tomorrow night we will continue the series and focus on politics at the pump. Wednesday, will the pump run dry? And Thursday, alternatives to the pump. This past week the National Association of Latino elected and appointed officials organization held their annual conference in Dallas, Texas. That event drew several thousand members of congress, state lawmakers, municipal leaders, as well as county and school board officials from more than 40 States, among the topics of discussion, were health care, education, and of course, immigration. Horizon was at the national event. And as Nadine Arroyo reports, NALEO is doing more than just talking about issues.

Luis Gutierrez:
I want you to think of the millions -- not the tens of thousands, not the hundreds of thousands -- but the millions of brothers and sisters of ours, the Gonzales and Rodriguez -- That every day go into pesticide-ridden fields across this agriculture of our country and are contaminated every day and exploited every day and have no future for themselves and their families to come to Washington, D.C. and say, we will give them justice, we will give them a future.

Nadine Arroyo:
The 23rd annual conference of the National Association of Latino elected and appointed Officials or NALEO, held in Dallas, Texas, commenced with a bang.

Joe Baca:
By us building a future, that means getting you elected to position on city council seats, on school board seats, on supervise seats, on mayor's seats, on congressional seats. On the assembly in the senate. You are our future.

Nadine Arroyo:
Hundreds of politicians from across the country made their way to the conference that has become one of the most prominent political events in the country. Every year, NALEO brings issues to the bipartisan table which affects the nation. Latino population and one of this year's hot button topics, immigration.

Steve Gallardo was one of two legislators who represented Arizona. He believes the many great lakes debate may soon see some real results.

Steve Gallardo:
We have to take the emotions out of this issue. We need to be able to look at it from a practical standpoint. We need to be able to look at it as a global standpoint, as economic standpoint. And a human aspect of the illegal immigration and we are starting to do that. You are starting to see people from both sides of the aisle, Republicans and Democrats, coming together from all over the country actually talking about immigration reform and having it done now.

Grace Napolitano:
Some of the Latinos were very supportive once I got elected. Before that it was like, oh, she's a woman, she will never make it.

Nadine Arroyo:
NALEO is a bipartisan organization whose members include more than 6,000 Republican and Democratic Latino Elected officials. NALEO's Republican president says the organization is a national forum for Latino issues across all party lines.

John Bueno:
We're represented in 43 of the 50 states. And when we look at basically NALEO being so bipartisan, you know, we've got Republicans, we've got Democrats but we come together based on unity of trying to get across our message; working together.

Nora Coronado:
I am encouraged by seeing school district people here, and local city council people.

Nadine Arroyo:
Among its many efforts, NALEO works towards building leaders for tomorrow. Their fellowship program allows college students, college graduates and graduate students to go through an intensive professional leadership and cultural program before moving on to a five-week placement in an office of a congressional member. Norah is an ASU graduate and one of this year's fellows.

Nora Coronado:
I think I have gained from the conference is so much passion. From everyone. You know, we need to address these issues and these are, this is some ways we can do that. It's just they are very empowering, inspiring to know that you can actually make, you know, society, you know, our country a better place. By doing policy work.

Nadine Arroyo:
As organizers wrap this year's conference, its leaders say this is when their work really begins. The other issues they will be working on for the upcoming elections are English language learners, English language only, and the voting rights act.

Michael Grant:
During the next few days, the Horizon team is going to bring you more stories about the issues discussed during the NALEO conference.

Michael Grant:
Gila monster is one of the desert's most intriguing inhabitants and subject to speculation and frontier lore. A couple of investigators from ASU school of life sciences are looking to shed some light on how these colorful reptiles have adapted to their harsh environment.

Announcer:
The Sonoran Desert is home to an abundance of wildlife despite its extreme environment. These animals represent a variety of species and survival strategies. Among them is a creature as distinctive as it is misunderstood.

Dale DeNardo:
Gila monsters are unique in the sense they are one of two species of lizards that are 70ous, the other is their sister lizards from Mexico. There are a lot of stories and sort of late 1800's when Arizona was starting to get inhabited by man, there are all sorts of great stories of Gila monster bites, they would hold on until sun down and let go. Gila monster opened its mouth and hissed would kill all grass within six feet of it. All kinds of stories, Gila monsters killing all these people but in reality there's no recorded evidence of someone dying. The pain from a bite is extreme but the goal is not to kill a person. It's just to survive.

Announcer:
And finding out how it survives in such extreme conditions is what brings dale and john to the desert south of Phoenix, where the researchers have been following the activities of these reclusive lizards.

Jonathan Davis:
They are pretty important animals in terms of the Sonoran Desert ecosystem. They have reached a sort of iconic status in the southwest and really there is not a whole lot that's known about them. So the goal of my field work is to understand how these animals survive in their environment, and how they balance things like thermal requirements, water requirements, and energy requirements. And so these things are certainly necessary for life, for all life. But it's also important to understand that they're not independent of one another and they are, in fact, all interrelated.

Jonathan Davis:
Well, that's a good find. Nice job.

Dale DeNardo:
In order to really assess how the Gila monster is able to do what it does in the wild and actually survive in a challenging environment we have to study out there in the environment so we need to go out there and study them so we have a group of 24 Gila monster that is we have radio transmitters implanted and we can follow and that gives us an idea of where they're going with their normal cycles, when they're losing weight, gaining weight. That helps.

Announcer:
During the spring and summer breeding systems Gila monsters are especially active and easier to locate. Even with the assistance of radio telemetry, the actual process of finding each of the individuals in the study group is no simple task.

Jonathan Davis:
The terrain in the Sonoran Desert can be challenging to terms of vegetation that's there and so you have to be aware of your environment in terms of the plant life. But also there's some other animal there's that you need to be wary of rattle snakes, for example.

Jonathan Davis:
When I am tracking these animals in the field, I'm usually by myself and I'm relying upon my knowledge of where these animals spend their time. I have developed that over the last couple of years every week to two weeks and figuring out where they like to live. I can go out to this two square mile area. Turn on my receiver and hopefully position myself to where I'm within maybe one or 200 yards of the animal.

Announcer:
Like other reptiles Gila monsters are ectoderms and must rely on their surroundings to regulate body temperature. When the environment becomes too hot or too cold, they retreat to burrows where they can remain for months at a time. By placing an additional device inside the Gilas, the researchers are able to keep track of internal temperature fluctuations gaining insights into the Gila monster's lifestyle.

Jonathan Davis:
We're able to use miniature implantable temp data loggers that we implant into the animal's body cavity and we can record their body temp every hour for up to a year consecutively. That gives us interesting data in terms of their thermal biology but we can also use that same data to estimate when the animals are on the surface versus when inner in the burrow or some sort of refuge. The surgeries are fairly minimal in terms of the scope. We are simply making small incision into the body cavity and inserting the small device into the body and then we suture them back up and they wake up and they seem to be good as new.

Announcer:
Gila monsters feed exclusively on the contents of desert nests and because food is often difficult to come by they will gorge themselves when given the opportunity. Excess calories are stored as fat in the tail which can be measured. And as Davis is finding out Gila monsters can store impressive amounts of water as well.

Jonathan Davis:
One of the interesting things that my research has shown is that Gila monsters are able to store dilute urine near the urinary bladder and are able to reabsorb that when needed. It's analogous to us carrying about two gallons of water inside our bodies.

Announcer:
But the Gilas don't always make use of their internal canteen.

Jonathan Davis:
We see it in the springtime they have it but during the dry part of the year, during June, They don't have any and that's probably because they have used it up. But then the monsoon comes in August, and we find that they don't have water in their bladder then. What we think about that is that possibility there's some kind of cost associated to it. They're carrying around this extra weight. Possibly that slows them down.

Announcer:
In the laboratory, Davis is able to evaluate the physiological effects of this water storage technique using a novel approach.

Jonathan Davis:
I'm actually putting these animals on to a tread mill with the full bladder or with an emptied bladder and we're comparing how good their endurance is in those two case. We're comparing is its more energetic alley expensive to move that extra weight around.

Announcer:
Extended periods of dehydration are common among Gila monsters. It is not unusual for them to go without water or food for as long as three months at a time with seemingly no ill effects. In order to obtain a more precise understanding of just how these animals are able to survive in the wild, the researchers also must work with a captive population under controlled conditions.

Dale DeNardo:
In the lab we have a colony of 40 Gila monsters which have all been acquired through Arizona game and fish, nuisance animals. I hate calling Gila monsters nuisance animals, but they're the ones found in yards and can't be released. We use these in the laboratory where we can control things. We can measure carefully, the amount of water they're losing under different conditions. We can measure rates of dehydration in these guys. Rates of rehydration. These are things you can only study in the lab.

Announcer:
Their research provides a unique and personally rewarding opportunity to study one of the Sonoran desert's most resilient inhabitants. It's helping to expand our understanding of survival in extreme environments.

Dale DeNardo:
Studying Gila monsters gives us two things. We need to be aware of what these animals need to survive in order to assure we preserve these animals. So there's willing conservation side but also the broad understanding of how the body adjusts to challenge environments. If we can see how the body adjusts and how it adapts to situation but in many species how that happens.

Jonathan Davis:
Gila monsters are exceptional for me because I lived here for 20 years, hiked a lot, and never saw a Gila monster in my life. I came into this lab and started working on them and now I have 24 of them out in the field that I see regularly. And as I study these animals more and more, I am learning about all these interesting things that they can do physiologically, how they can cope with their environment when I would simply crumble out there. And so I can see these animals each year just getting by and some years are better than others. This year was a great year for them, as a matter of fact. And it's really rewarding to sort of see them bounce back from a rough year and just keep going.

Merry Lucero:
We continue our series on gasoline and the issues affecting consumers, geopolitics certainly impacts the price at the pump but how do national politics influence the price and how do gas prices affect politics? Horizon explores that plus what politicians can or cannot do about gas prices. That's Tuesday on horizon.

Michael Grant:
Thanks very much for joining us on this Monday evening. I'm Michael Grant. Hope you have a great one. Good night.

Gila Monster


  • Join HORIZON for a fascinating look into the research being conducted at Arizona State University on the lifestyles and habits of the gila monster.
Guests:
  • Christina Estes - AAA Arizona
Category: Environment

View Transcript
Michael Grant:
Tonight on Horizon we start a four-part series on the importance of gasoline to the economy and our life styles. Hundreds of Latino-elected officials from around the country make their way to Dallas, Texas, to talk about issues affecting the nation's Latino community. We were there. And ASU researchers are tracking one of the Sonoran desert's most colorful residents, the Gila monster.

Michael Grant:
Good evening. Thanks for joining us on Horizon. I'm Michael Grant. Tonight we start a four part series on a substance that probably affects us more than any other single thing in our modern lives, gasoline. It's hard to believe, perhaps, only 100 years ago, people barely had a use for it. But today it is at the center of our energy needs.

Larry Lemmons:
The Phoenix metro area stretches from the streets of Apache Junction to beyond Buckeye. The grid of streets and highways is cluttered with gas-powered vehicles. Gasoline keeps the city on the go and a lot of it is used in any given day.

Joe Sparano:
In Arizona, you use about 10, 11 million gallons per day of gasoline, diesel, and jet fuel and gasoline is by far the largest, about 7 million gallons A day.

Larry Lemmons:
The valley is home to about 3 million people. And that number rises daily. Without a refinery nearby, that means Phoenix is essentially isolated in terms of gasoline. It's piped in from east and West.

Joe Sparano:
70\% each day of the gasoline diesel and jet that Arizona consumers use and businesses comes from California. And almost all of it comes from the California refineries located in Los Angeles area. It's carried by pipelines, about a six o-day trip. The other 30\% comes from New Mexico refineries, and west Texas refineries. There's a similar pipeline from West Texas through New Mexico into Tucson, linked up to Phoenix, and Maricopa County is far and away the highest demand area in Arizona.

Larry Lemmons:
Gas prices fluctuate for many reasons. But the valley experienced firsthand the effect of a gasoline crisis in the summer of 2003.

Joe Sparano:
In 2003, the pipeline around the Tucson area had a problem. It was shut down for 30, 40, 50 Days, considerable period of time. And the supply from the east dried up immediately. And the effect on the marketplace was to remove product. There was a panic buying as reinforced by an Arizona house investigative report that was published in 2003, Maricopa County consumers went from a little under 5 million gallons a day demand to 22. I think we just talked about seven-plus million gallons a day is the typical total state demand for a short period. Arizonans went out and bought around 22 million gallons a day and the calculation stems from trying to figure out what happens when people go from a quarter or a half filled tank to a full tank. And what people don't often understand is that the largest supply of inventory in the United States is in the automobiles, because most of us don't fill up at three-quarters or a half. We wait until it's a quarter or near in the end, then we fill. If everyone goes the same couple of days to go from a quarter to full or a half to full, puts a tremendous demand. So I'm trying to reflect the vulnerability that exists today with two pipelines that bring all the gasoline in.

Larry Lemmons:
Gas prices can be affected by taxes, special blends, or even geopolitical concerns across the world. Considering how many things actually can affect the cost of gasoline, it might not seem surprising then that prices are as volatile as they are.

Michael Grant:
Here now to tell us how gas prices are determined and why they are so volatile, Christina Estes from AAA Arizona. It's nice to have you back. You were making the comment in response 20 that last point on the tape some European nation, what do they do that they don't?

Christina Estes:
They require a certain number day supply of gas on hand. In the United States, we typically have anywhere from a 20 to 25-day supply of gasoline on hand so enough to cover everybody in the U.S. for that many days should something happen. It used to be not too long ago more than a 30-day supply. So there's no requirement by our government that says, hey, all you refineries you need to make sure you have this much gas on hand.

Michael Grant:
Is it our imagination -- Backed up incredible amounts of data here. Have the prices in the past -- I don't even know what time I want to put on this but certainly the past year, have they been more volatile than they used to be?

Christina Estes:
Certainly in the last couple of months here when I was here last time we were talking about how crazy the prices were. This is the first time -- well, we'll go back to last fall after the hurricanes. That was the first time that we were seeing $3 and up per gallon. This summer was the first time that we entered the season above $3 a gallon. So it's been a wild ride and one big part of that has to do with some environmental regulations for refineries. They needed to make some processing changes in order to include ethanol in their gasoline mixture so that was one big reason behind that. They weren't pumping out as much and people were still demanding the same amount.

Michael Grant:
Volatility contributors, we want to talk globally about this and then we will get more local. But certainly one of the things that indicates and drives volatility is supply. And there's -- you really can't boost supply a whole lot, at least on a momentary basis. Right?

Christina Estes:
Oil producers are pretty much producing at capacity right now. There's a very thin sort of surplus. OPEC predicts to increase that over the next couple of years but it's a pretty thin surplus That we've got because they are pumping out as much as we can and everybody has taken as much as they can.

Michael Grant:
So if you have an -- a sharp increase in demand, or you have a sharp loss of supply, as the case may be, obviously, one of the major contributing elements to price volatility?

Christina Estes:
Sure. If you and I want something and only one person has it, and we're going to fight over the price because we both want it, yeah.

Michael Grant:
What about the future speculation? How much of a role does that play in knit for that matter, badly perceived world events instability in the Middle East, whatever, you know, however you may want to fill in?

Christina Estes:
When it comes to the markets it's kind of depends on who you ask. You ask three different analysts their opinion and you kind of get three different answers. Some people believe that all of the speculation is behind our incredible increase in crude oil. It was a couple of years ago we thought $50 a barrel was outrageous and we have been trading between $68 and $73 a barrel for the last couple of months. Some people say, no, that's behind the stability we've seen over the last couple of months with it being between $68 and $73 a barrel. Geopolitics a. huge factor because people are watching what's going on in other parts of the world and deciding how much they think they can get in the future for their oil and their gas.

Michael Grant:
I know AAA surveys on all, a lot on this stuff. And regularly on this stuff. Let's pull it down to Arizona. Why will we find different prices in different areas of the State?

Christina Estes:
No easy answer. But here in Phoenix, we actually use a special blend year-round. Tucson does not use that special blend year-round so Tucson typically has cheaper gas prices than in Phoenix because they have a special blend and it typically costs a little more to make that blend. Flagstaff right now is the only metro area paying on average above $3 a gallon. One big reason has to do with it's difficult to get the Flagstaff to have a tanker go up some big hills compared to here in Phoenix. Another factor has to do frankly with neighborhoods. There have been studies done that compared sort of wealthier communities to maybe moderate income communities and the higher gas prices in those wealthier communities are much more easily absorbed than in middle class communities.

Michael Grant:
Yeah, you presaged my next question which was the valley of the sun. It's not unusual to find price swings from areas here in the valley, what, maybe 10 cents? A gallon? Perhaps more?

Christina Estes:
Today's average regular unleaded and Phoenix is $2.87. It was just last were where Scottsdale finally dropped below that $3 mark. So typically Scottsdale's prices are high are than other parts of the valley.

Michael Grant:
And is the most significant driver behind that is you sort of alluded to what the market will bear?

Christina Estes:
Uh-huh. Yeah. We know that typically Scottsdale is known as a wealthier community. But also it could be because the cost of doing business there is a little bit more. If you want to lease some space in Scottsdale probably cost you more than it may in another part of the east valley or the west valley.

Michael Grant:
What about the retail markup? I think last time you were here you actually said that triple a current data was indicating a fairly thin retail markup in Phoenix. Do I recall?

Christina Estes:
Remember when everybody was so outraged over the high gas prices? Really I felt bad for some. Service stations because people were bashing them and we had data at that time that showed Phoenix and Tucson actually were among, in the southwest, the least profitable gas stations. They were losing money, up to 10 Cents a gallon. Right now, my statistics that I have from last week show that Phoenix makes right now average, about 10 cents per gallon so they went from losing 10 cents per gallon to making 10 cents per gallon and the average is 12 To 14 cents. That's what they like to make kind off cross the board.

Michael Grant:
For many gas retailers, I mean don't they make, don't they count on, you know, a large fountain drinks candy bars and those kinds of things more for their profit -- they almost use gas as a loss leader?

Christina Estes:
Well, sometimes. And there are some who say that the Costco's and Sam's clubs and those places use them as loss leaders so they will be a penny or two less to get you into their store. But typically they try to have that sort of 12 to 14 cents buffer so that they know what to expect on a monthly basis and they know how to budget. But, yeah, if the gas prices are too high, you're not going to go in there and get that 44 ounce drink or that candy bar so that really is a double whammy for them.

Michael Grant:
Almost out of time but crystal ball gazing for the balance. Year --

Christina Estes:
How about summer? We can do summer better. Too many factors at play. We haven't had any hurricanes. So we know that the federal Government predicts the national gas average this summer to be $2.76 which is more than 30 cents higher than last summer. Arizona is typically higher than the national average so our gas prices have been dropping slowly for the last few weeks so that's good news. I don't expect any dramatic drops so anywhere from $2.80 to $2.85 through Labor Day would be reasonable.

Michael Grant:
Ok. Christina Estes, thank you very much.

Christina Estes:
You are welcome.

Michael Grant:
Tomorrow night we will continue the series and focus on politics at the pump. Wednesday, will the pump run dry? And Thursday, alternatives to the pump. This past week the National Association of Latino elected and appointed officials organization held their annual conference in Dallas, Texas. That event drew several thousand members of congress, state lawmakers, municipal leaders, as well as county and school board officials from more than 40 States, among the topics of discussion, were health care, education, and of course, immigration. Horizon was at the national event. And as Nadine Arroyo reports, NALEO is doing more than just talking about issues.

Luis Gutierrez:
I want you to think of the millions -- not the tens of thousands, not the hundreds of thousands -- but the millions of brothers and sisters of ours, the Gonzales and Rodriguez -- That every day go into pesticide-ridden fields across this agriculture of our country and are contaminated every day and exploited every day and have no future for themselves and their families to come to Washington, D.C. and say, we will give them justice, we will give them a future.

Nadine Arroyo:
The 23rd annual conference of the National Association of Latino elected and appointed Officials or NALEO, held in Dallas, Texas, commenced with a bang.

Joe Baca:
By us building a future, that means getting you elected to position on city council seats, on school board seats, on supervise seats, on mayor's seats, on congressional seats. On the assembly in the senate. You are our future.

Nadine Arroyo:
Hundreds of politicians from across the country made their way to the conference that has become one of the most prominent political events in the country. Every year, NALEO brings issues to the bipartisan table which affects the nation. Latino population and one of this year's hot button topics, immigration.

Steve Gallardo was one of two legislators who represented Arizona. He believes the many great lakes debate may soon see some real results.

Steve Gallardo:
We have to take the emotions out of this issue. We need to be able to look at it from a practical standpoint. We need to be able to look at it as a global standpoint, as economic standpoint. And a human aspect of the illegal immigration and we are starting to do that. You are starting to see people from both sides of the aisle, Republicans and Democrats, coming together from all over the country actually talking about immigration reform and having it done now.

Grace Napolitano:
Some of the Latinos were very supportive once I got elected. Before that it was like, oh, she's a woman, she will never make it.

Nadine Arroyo:
NALEO is a bipartisan organization whose members include more than 6,000 Republican and Democratic Latino Elected officials. NALEO's Republican president says the organization is a national forum for Latino issues across all party lines.

John Bueno:
We're represented in 43 of the 50 states. And when we look at basically NALEO being so bipartisan, you know, we've got Republicans, we've got Democrats but we come together based on unity of trying to get across our message; working together.

Nora Coronado:
I am encouraged by seeing school district people here, and local city council people.

Nadine Arroyo:
Among its many efforts, NALEO works towards building leaders for tomorrow. Their fellowship program allows college students, college graduates and graduate students to go through an intensive professional leadership and cultural program before moving on to a five-week placement in an office of a congressional member. Norah is an ASU graduate and one of this year's fellows.

Nora Coronado:
I think I have gained from the conference is so much passion. From everyone. You know, we need to address these issues and these are, this is some ways we can do that. It's just they are very empowering, inspiring to know that you can actually make, you know, society, you know, our country a better place. By doing policy work.

Nadine Arroyo:
As organizers wrap this year's conference, its leaders say this is when their work really begins. The other issues they will be working on for the upcoming elections are English language learners, English language only, and the voting rights act.

Michael Grant:
During the next few days, the Horizon team is going to bring you more stories about the issues discussed during the NALEO conference.

Michael Grant:
Gila monster is one of the desert's most intriguing inhabitants and subject to speculation and frontier lore. A couple of investigators from ASU school of life sciences are looking to shed some light on how these colorful reptiles have adapted to their harsh environment.

Announcer:
The Sonoran Desert is home to an abundance of wildlife despite its extreme environment. These animals represent a variety of species and survival strategies. Among them is a creature as distinctive as it is misunderstood.

Dale DeNardo:
Gila monsters are unique in the sense they are one of two species of lizards that are 70ous, the other is their sister lizards from Mexico. There are a lot of stories and sort of late 1800's when Arizona was starting to get inhabited by man, there are all sorts of great stories of Gila monster bites, they would hold on until sun down and let go. Gila monster opened its mouth and hissed would kill all grass within six feet of it. All kinds of stories, Gila monsters killing all these people but in reality there's no recorded evidence of someone dying. The pain from a bite is extreme but the goal is not to kill a person. It's just to survive.

Announcer:
And finding out how it survives in such extreme conditions is what brings dale and john to the desert south of Phoenix, where the researchers have been following the activities of these reclusive lizards.

Jonathan Davis:
They are pretty important animals in terms of the Sonoran Desert ecosystem. They have reached a sort of iconic status in the southwest and really there is not a whole lot that's known about them. So the goal of my field work is to understand how these animals survive in their environment, and how they balance things like thermal requirements, water requirements, and energy requirements. And so these things are certainly necessary for life, for all life. But it's also important to understand that they're not independent of one another and they are, in fact, all interrelated.

Jonathan Davis:
Well, that's a good find. Nice job.

Dale DeNardo:
In order to really assess how the Gila monster is able to do what it does in the wild and actually survive in a challenging environment we have to study out there in the environment so we need to go out there and study them so we have a group of 24 Gila monster that is we have radio transmitters implanted and we can follow and that gives us an idea of where they're going with their normal cycles, when they're losing weight, gaining weight. That helps.

Announcer:
During the spring and summer breeding systems Gila monsters are especially active and easier to locate. Even with the assistance of radio telemetry, the actual process of finding each of the individuals in the study group is no simple task.

Jonathan Davis:
The terrain in the Sonoran Desert can be challenging to terms of vegetation that's there and so you have to be aware of your environment in terms of the plant life. But also there's some other animal there's that you need to be wary of rattle snakes, for example.

Jonathan Davis:
When I am tracking these animals in the field, I'm usually by myself and I'm relying upon my knowledge of where these animals spend their time. I have developed that over the last couple of years every week to two weeks and figuring out where they like to live. I can go out to this two square mile area. Turn on my receiver and hopefully position myself to where I'm within maybe one or 200 yards of the animal.

Announcer:
Like other reptiles Gila monsters are ectoderms and must rely on their surroundings to regulate body temperature. When the environment becomes too hot or too cold, they retreat to burrows where they can remain for months at a time. By placing an additional device inside the Gilas, the researchers are able to keep track of internal temperature fluctuations gaining insights into the Gila monster's lifestyle.

Jonathan Davis:
We're able to use miniature implantable temp data loggers that we implant into the animal's body cavity and we can record their body temp every hour for up to a year consecutively. That gives us interesting data in terms of their thermal biology but we can also use that same data to estimate when the animals are on the surface versus when inner in the burrow or some sort of refuge. The surgeries are fairly minimal in terms of the scope. We are simply making small incision into the body cavity and inserting the small device into the body and then we suture them back up and they wake up and they seem to be good as new.

Announcer:
Gila monsters feed exclusively on the contents of desert nests and because food is often difficult to come by they will gorge themselves when given the opportunity. Excess calories are stored as fat in the tail which can be measured. And as Davis is finding out Gila monsters can store impressive amounts of water as well.

Jonathan Davis:
One of the interesting things that my research has shown is that Gila monsters are able to store dilute urine near the urinary bladder and are able to reabsorb that when needed. It's analogous to us carrying about two gallons of water inside our bodies.

Announcer:
But the Gilas don't always make use of their internal canteen.

Jonathan Davis:
We see it in the springtime they have it but during the dry part of the year, during June, They don't have any and that's probably because they have used it up. But then the monsoon comes in August, and we find that they don't have water in their bladder then. What we think about that is that possibility there's some kind of cost associated to it. They're carrying around this extra weight. Possibly that slows them down.

Announcer:
In the laboratory, Davis is able to evaluate the physiological effects of this water storage technique using a novel approach.

Jonathan Davis:
I'm actually putting these animals on to a tread mill with the full bladder or with an emptied bladder and we're comparing how good their endurance is in those two case. We're comparing is its more energetic alley expensive to move that extra weight around.

Announcer:
Extended periods of dehydration are common among Gila monsters. It is not unusual for them to go without water or food for as long as three months at a time with seemingly no ill effects. In order to obtain a more precise understanding of just how these animals are able to survive in the wild, the researchers also must work with a captive population under controlled conditions.

Dale DeNardo:
In the lab we have a colony of 40 Gila monsters which have all been acquired through Arizona game and fish, nuisance animals. I hate calling Gila monsters nuisance animals, but they're the ones found in yards and can't be released. We use these in the laboratory where we can control things. We can measure carefully, the amount of water they're losing under different conditions. We can measure rates of dehydration in these guys. Rates of rehydration. These are things you can only study in the lab.

Announcer:
Their research provides a unique and personally rewarding opportunity to study one of the Sonoran desert's most resilient inhabitants. It's helping to expand our understanding of survival in extreme environments.

Dale DeNardo:
Studying Gila monsters gives us two things. We need to be aware of what these animals need to survive in order to assure we preserve these animals. So there's willing conservation side but also the broad understanding of how the body adjusts to challenge environments. If we can see how the body adjusts and how it adapts to situation but in many species how that happens.

Jonathan Davis:
Gila monsters are exceptional for me because I lived here for 20 years, hiked a lot, and never saw a Gila monster in my life. I came into this lab and started working on them and now I have 24 of them out in the field that I see regularly. And as I study these animals more and more, I am learning about all these interesting things that they can do physiologically, how they can cope with their environment when I would simply crumble out there. And so I can see these animals each year just getting by and some years are better than others. This year was a great year for them, as a matter of fact. And it's really rewarding to sort of see them bounce back from a rough year and just keep going.

Merry Lucero:
We continue our series on gasoline and the issues affecting consumers, geopolitics certainly impacts the price at the pump but how do national politics influence the price and how do gas prices affect politics? Horizon explores that plus what politicians can or cannot do about gas prices. That's Tuesday on horizon.

Michael Grant:
Thanks very much for joining us on this Monday evening. I'm Michael Grant. Hope you have a great one. Good night.

Latino-elected officials


  • Hundreds of Latino-elected officials from around the country make their way to Dallas, Texas, to talk about issues affecting the nation's Latino community.
Guests:
  • Christina Estes - AAA Arizona


View Transcript
Michael Grant:
Tonight on Horizon we start a four-part series on the importance of gasoline to the economy and our life styles. Hundreds of Latino-elected officials from around the country make their way to Dallas, Texas, to talk about issues affecting the nation's Latino community. We were there. And ASU researchers are tracking one of the Sonoran desert's most colorful residents, the Gila monster.

Michael Grant:
Good evening. Thanks for joining us on Horizon. I'm Michael Grant. Tonight we start a four part series on a substance that probably affects us more than any other single thing in our modern lives, gasoline. It's hard to believe, perhaps, only 100 years ago, people barely had a use for it. But today it is at the center of our energy needs.

Larry Lemmons:
The Phoenix metro area stretches from the streets of Apache Junction to beyond Buckeye. The grid of streets and highways is cluttered with gas-powered vehicles. Gasoline keeps the city on the go and a lot of it is used in any given day.

Joe Sparano:
In Arizona, you use about 10, 11 million gallons per day of gasoline, diesel, and jet fuel and gasoline is by far the largest, about 7 million gallons A day.

Larry Lemmons:
The valley is home to about 3 million people. And that number rises daily. Without a refinery nearby, that means Phoenix is essentially isolated in terms of gasoline. It's piped in from east and West.

Joe Sparano:
70\% each day of the gasoline diesel and jet that Arizona consumers use and businesses comes from California. And almost all of it comes from the California refineries located in Los Angeles area. It's carried by pipelines, about a six o-day trip. The other 30\% comes from New Mexico refineries, and west Texas refineries. There's a similar pipeline from West Texas through New Mexico into Tucson, linked up to Phoenix, and Maricopa County is far and away the highest demand area in Arizona.

Larry Lemmons:
Gas prices fluctuate for many reasons. But the valley experienced firsthand the effect of a gasoline crisis in the summer of 2003.

Joe Sparano:
In 2003, the pipeline around the Tucson area had a problem. It was shut down for 30, 40, 50 Days, considerable period of time. And the supply from the east dried up immediately. And the effect on the marketplace was to remove product. There was a panic buying as reinforced by an Arizona house investigative report that was published in 2003, Maricopa County consumers went from a little under 5 million gallons a day demand to 22. I think we just talked about seven-plus million gallons a day is the typical total state demand for a short period. Arizonans went out and bought around 22 million gallons a day and the calculation stems from trying to figure out what happens when people go from a quarter or a half filled tank to a full tank. And what people don't often understand is that the largest supply of inventory in the United States is in the automobiles, because most of us don't fill up at three-quarters or a half. We wait until it's a quarter or near in the end, then we fill. If everyone goes the same couple of days to go from a quarter to full or a half to full, puts a tremendous demand. So I'm trying to reflect the vulnerability that exists today with two pipelines that bring all the gasoline in.

Larry Lemmons:
Gas prices can be affected by taxes, special blends, or even geopolitical concerns across the world. Considering how many things actually can affect the cost of gasoline, it might not seem surprising then that prices are as volatile as they are.

Michael Grant:
Here now to tell us how gas prices are determined and why they are so volatile, Christina Estes from AAA Arizona. It's nice to have you back. You were making the comment in response 20 that last point on the tape some European nation, what do they do that they don't?

Christina Estes:
They require a certain number day supply of gas on hand. In the United States, we typically have anywhere from a 20 to 25-day supply of gasoline on hand so enough to cover everybody in the U.S. for that many days should something happen. It used to be not too long ago more than a 30-day supply. So there's no requirement by our government that says, hey, all you refineries you need to make sure you have this much gas on hand.

Michael Grant:
Is it our imagination -- Backed up incredible amounts of data here. Have the prices in the past -- I don't even know what time I want to put on this but certainly the past year, have they been more volatile than they used to be?

Christina Estes:
Certainly in the last couple of months here when I was here last time we were talking about how crazy the prices were. This is the first time -- well, we'll go back to last fall after the hurricanes. That was the first time that we were seeing $3 and up per gallon. This summer was the first time that we entered the season above $3 a gallon. So it's been a wild ride and one big part of that has to do with some environmental regulations for refineries. They needed to make some processing changes in order to include ethanol in their gasoline mixture so that was one big reason behind that. They weren't pumping out as much and people were still demanding the same amount.

Michael Grant:
Volatility contributors, we want to talk globally about this and then we will get more local. But certainly one of the things that indicates and drives volatility is supply. And there's -- you really can't boost supply a whole lot, at least on a momentary basis. Right?

Christina Estes:
Oil producers are pretty much producing at capacity right now. There's a very thin sort of surplus. OPEC predicts to increase that over the next couple of years but it's a pretty thin surplus That we've got because they are pumping out as much as we can and everybody has taken as much as they can.

Michael Grant:
So if you have an -- a sharp increase in demand, or you have a sharp loss of supply, as the case may be, obviously, one of the major contributing elements to price volatility?

Christina Estes:
Sure. If you and I want something and only one person has it, and we're going to fight over the price because we both want it, yeah.

Michael Grant:
What about the future speculation? How much of a role does that play in knit for that matter, badly perceived world events instability in the Middle East, whatever, you know, however you may want to fill in?

Christina Estes:
When it comes to the markets it's kind of depends on who you ask. You ask three different analysts their opinion and you kind of get three different answers. Some people believe that all of the speculation is behind our incredible increase in crude oil. It was a couple of years ago we thought $50 a barrel was outrageous and we have been trading between $68 and $73 a barrel for the last couple of months. Some people say, no, that's behind the stability we've seen over the last couple of months with it being between $68 and $73 a barrel. Geopolitics a. huge factor because people are watching what's going on in other parts of the world and deciding how much they think they can get in the future for their oil and their gas.

Michael Grant:
I know AAA surveys on all, a lot on this stuff. And regularly on this stuff. Let's pull it down to Arizona. Why will we find different prices in different areas of the State?

Christina Estes:
No easy answer. But here in Phoenix, we actually use a special blend year-round. Tucson does not use that special blend year-round so Tucson typically has cheaper gas prices than in Phoenix because they have a special blend and it typically costs a little more to make that blend. Flagstaff right now is the only metro area paying on average above $3 a gallon. One big reason has to do with it's difficult to get the Flagstaff to have a tanker go up some big hills compared to here in Phoenix. Another factor has to do frankly with neighborhoods. There have been studies done that compared sort of wealthier communities to maybe moderate income communities and the higher gas prices in those wealthier communities are much more easily absorbed than in middle class communities.

Michael Grant:
Yeah, you presaged my next question which was the valley of the sun. It's not unusual to find price swings from areas here in the valley, what, maybe 10 cents? A gallon? Perhaps more?

Christina Estes:
Today's average regular unleaded and Phoenix is $2.87. It was just last were where Scottsdale finally dropped below that $3 mark. So typically Scottsdale's prices are high are than other parts of the valley.

Michael Grant:
And is the most significant driver behind that is you sort of alluded to what the market will bear?

Christina Estes:
Uh-huh. Yeah. We know that typically Scottsdale is known as a wealthier community. But also it could be because the cost of doing business there is a little bit more. If you want to lease some space in Scottsdale probably cost you more than it may in another part of the east valley or the west valley.

Michael Grant:
What about the retail markup? I think last time you were here you actually said that triple a current data was indicating a fairly thin retail markup in Phoenix. Do I recall?

Christina Estes:
Remember when everybody was so outraged over the high gas prices? Really I felt bad for some. Service stations because people were bashing them and we had data at that time that showed Phoenix and Tucson actually were among, in the southwest, the least profitable gas stations. They were losing money, up to 10 Cents a gallon. Right now, my statistics that I have from last week show that Phoenix makes right now average, about 10 cents per gallon so they went from losing 10 cents per gallon to making 10 cents per gallon and the average is 12 To 14 cents. That's what they like to make kind off cross the board.

Michael Grant:
For many gas retailers, I mean don't they make, don't they count on, you know, a large fountain drinks candy bars and those kinds of things more for their profit -- they almost use gas as a loss leader?

Christina Estes:
Well, sometimes. And there are some who say that the Costco's and Sam's clubs and those places use them as loss leaders so they will be a penny or two less to get you into their store. But typically they try to have that sort of 12 to 14 cents buffer so that they know what to expect on a monthly basis and they know how to budget. But, yeah, if the gas prices are too high, you're not going to go in there and get that 44 ounce drink or that candy bar so that really is a double whammy for them.

Michael Grant:
Almost out of time but crystal ball gazing for the balance. Year --

Christina Estes:
How about summer? We can do summer better. Too many factors at play. We haven't had any hurricanes. So we know that the federal Government predicts the national gas average this summer to be $2.76 which is more than 30 cents higher than last summer. Arizona is typically higher than the national average so our gas prices have been dropping slowly for the last few weeks so that's good news. I don't expect any dramatic drops so anywhere from $2.80 to $2.85 through Labor Day would be reasonable.

Michael Grant:
Ok. Christina Estes, thank you very much.

Christina Estes:
You are welcome.

Michael Grant:
Tomorrow night we will continue the series and focus on politics at the pump. Wednesday, will the pump run dry? And Thursday, alternatives to the pump. This past week the National Association of Latino elected and appointed officials organization held their annual conference in Dallas, Texas. That event drew several thousand members of congress, state lawmakers, municipal leaders, as well as county and school board officials from more than 40 States, among the topics of discussion, were health care, education, and of course, immigration. Horizon was at the national event. And as Nadine Arroyo reports, NALEO is doing more than just talking about issues.

Luis Gutierrez:
I want you to think of the millions -- not the tens of thousands, not the hundreds of thousands -- but the millions of brothers and sisters of ours, the Gonzales and Rodriguez -- That every day go into pesticide-ridden fields across this agriculture of our country and are contaminated every day and exploited every day and have no future for themselves and their families to come to Washington, D.C. and say, we will give them justice, we will give them a future.

Nadine Arroyo:
The 23rd annual conference of the National Association of Latino elected and appointed Officials or NALEO, held in Dallas, Texas, commenced with a bang.

Joe Baca:
By us building a future, that means getting you elected to position on city council seats, on school board seats, on supervise seats, on mayor's seats, on congressional seats. On the assembly in the senate. You are our future.

Nadine Arroyo:
Hundreds of politicians from across the country made their way to the conference that has become one of the most prominent political events in the country. Every year, NALEO brings issues to the bipartisan table which affects the nation. Latino population and one of this year's hot button topics, immigration.

Steve Gallardo was one of two legislators who represented Arizona. He believes the many great lakes debate may soon see some real results.

Steve Gallardo:
We have to take the emotions out of this issue. We need to be able to look at it from a practical standpoint. We need to be able to look at it as a global standpoint, as economic standpoint. And a human aspect of the illegal immigration and we are starting to do that. You are starting to see people from both sides of the aisle, Republicans and Democrats, coming together from all over the country actually talking about immigration reform and having it done now.

Grace Napolitano:
Some of the Latinos were very supportive once I got elected. Before that it was like, oh, she's a woman, she will never make it.

Nadine Arroyo:
NALEO is a bipartisan organization whose members include more than 6,000 Republican and Democratic Latino Elected officials. NALEO's Republican president says the organization is a national forum for Latino issues across all party lines.

John Bueno:
We're represented in 43 of the 50 states. And when we look at basically NALEO being so bipartisan, you know, we've got Republicans, we've got Democrats but we come together based on unity of trying to get across our message; working together.

Nora Coronado:
I am encouraged by seeing school district people here, and local city council people.

Nadine Arroyo:
Among its many efforts, NALEO works towards building leaders for tomorrow. Their fellowship program allows college students, college graduates and graduate students to go through an intensive professional leadership and cultural program before moving on to a five-week placement in an office of a congressional member. Norah is an ASU graduate and one of this year's fellows.

Nora Coronado:
I think I have gained from the conference is so much passion. From everyone. You know, we need to address these issues and these are, this is some ways we can do that. It's just they are very empowering, inspiring to know that you can actually make, you know, society, you know, our country a better place. By doing policy work.

Nadine Arroyo:
As organizers wrap this year's conference, its leaders say this is when their work really begins. The other issues they will be working on for the upcoming elections are English language learners, English language only, and the voting rights act.

Michael Grant:
During the next few days, the Horizon team is going to bring you more stories about the issues discussed during the NALEO conference.

Michael Grant:
Gila monster is one of the desert's most intriguing inhabitants and subject to speculation and frontier lore. A couple of investigators from ASU school of life sciences are looking to shed some light on how these colorful reptiles have adapted to their harsh environment.

Announcer:
The Sonoran Desert is home to an abundance of wildlife despite its extreme environment. These animals represent a variety of species and survival strategies. Among them is a creature as distinctive as it is misunderstood.

Dale DeNardo:
Gila monsters are unique in the sense they are one of two species of lizards that are 70ous, the other is their sister lizards from Mexico. There are a lot of stories and sort of late 1800's when Arizona was starting to get inhabited by man, there are all sorts of great stories of Gila monster bites, they would hold on until sun down and let go. Gila monster opened its mouth and hissed would kill all grass within six feet of it. All kinds of stories, Gila monsters killing all these people but in reality there's no recorded evidence of someone dying. The pain from a bite is extreme but the goal is not to kill a person. It's just to survive.

Announcer:
And finding out how it survives in such extreme conditions is what brings dale and john to the desert south of Phoenix, where the researchers have been following the activities of these reclusive lizards.

Jonathan Davis:
They are pretty important animals in terms of the Sonoran Desert ecosystem. They have reached a sort of iconic status in the southwest and really there is not a whole lot that's known about them. So the goal of my field work is to understand how these animals survive in their environment, and how they balance things like thermal requirements, water requirements, and energy requirements. And so these things are certainly necessary for life, for all life. But it's also important to understand that they're not independent of one another and they are, in fact, all interrelated.

Jonathan Davis:
Well, that's a good find. Nice job.

Dale DeNardo:
In order to really assess how the Gila monster is able to do what it does in the wild and actually survive in a challenging environment we have to study out there in the environment so we need to go out there and study them so we have a group of 24 Gila monster that is we have radio transmitters implanted and we can follow and that gives us an idea of where they're going with their normal cycles, when they're losing weight, gaining weight. That helps.

Announcer:
During the spring and summer breeding systems Gila monsters are especially active and easier to locate. Even with the assistance of radio telemetry, the actual process of finding each of the individuals in the study group is no simple task.

Jonathan Davis:
The terrain in the Sonoran Desert can be challenging to terms of vegetation that's there and so you have to be aware of your environment in terms of the plant life. But also there's some other animal there's that you need to be wary of rattle snakes, for example.

Jonathan Davis:
When I am tracking these animals in the field, I'm usually by myself and I'm relying upon my knowledge of where these animals spend their time. I have developed that over the last couple of years every week to two weeks and figuring out where they like to live. I can go out to this two square mile area. Turn on my receiver and hopefully position myself to where I'm within maybe one or 200 yards of the animal.

Announcer:
Like other reptiles Gila monsters are ectoderms and must rely on their surroundings to regulate body temperature. When the environment becomes too hot or too cold, they retreat to burrows where they can remain for months at a time. By placing an additional device inside the Gilas, the researchers are able to keep track of internal temperature fluctuations gaining insights into the Gila monster's lifestyle.

Jonathan Davis:
We're able to use miniature implantable temp data loggers that we implant into the animal's body cavity and we can record their body temp every hour for up to a year consecutively. That gives us interesting data in terms of their thermal biology but we can also use that same data to estimate when the animals are on the surface versus when inner in the burrow or some sort of refuge. The surgeries are fairly minimal in terms of the scope. We are simply making small incision into the body cavity and inserting the small device into the body and then we suture them back up and they wake up and they seem to be good as new.

Announcer:
Gila monsters feed exclusively on the contents of desert nests and because food is often difficult to come by they will gorge themselves when given the opportunity. Excess calories are stored as fat in the tail which can be measured. And as Davis is finding out Gila monsters can store impressive amounts of water as well.

Jonathan Davis:
One of the interesting things that my research has shown is that Gila monsters are able to store dilute urine near the urinary bladder and are able to reabsorb that when needed. It's analogous to us carrying about two gallons of water inside our bodies.

Announcer:
But the Gilas don't always make use of their internal canteen.

Jonathan Davis:
We see it in the springtime they have it but during the dry part of the year, during June, They don't have any and that's probably because they have used it up. But then the monsoon comes in August, and we find that they don't have water in their bladder then. What we think about that is that possibility there's some kind of cost associated to it. They're carrying around this extra weight. Possibly that slows them down.

Announcer:
In the laboratory, Davis is able to evaluate the physiological effects of this water storage technique using a novel approach.

Jonathan Davis:
I'm actually putting these animals on to a tread mill with the full bladder or with an emptied bladder and we're comparing how good their endurance is in those two case. We're comparing is its more energetic alley expensive to move that extra weight around.

Announcer:
Extended periods of dehydration are common among Gila monsters. It is not unusual for them to go without water or food for as long as three months at a time with seemingly no ill effects. In order to obtain a more precise understanding of just how these animals are able to survive in the wild, the researchers also must work with a captive population under controlled conditions.

Dale DeNardo:
In the lab we have a colony of 40 Gila monsters which have all been acquired through Arizona game and fish, nuisance animals. I hate calling Gila monsters nuisance animals, but they're the ones found in yards and can't be released. We use these in the laboratory where we can control things. We can measure carefully, the amount of water they're losing under different conditions. We can measure rates of dehydration in these guys. Rates of rehydration. These are things you can only study in the lab.

Announcer:
Their research provides a unique and personally rewarding opportunity to study one of the Sonoran desert's most resilient inhabitants. It's helping to expand our understanding of survival in extreme environments.

Dale DeNardo:
Studying Gila monsters gives us two things. We need to be aware of what these animals need to survive in order to assure we preserve these animals. So there's willing conservation side but also the broad understanding of how the body adjusts to challenge environments. If we can see how the body adjusts and how it adapts to situation but in many species how that happens.

Jonathan Davis:
Gila monsters are exceptional for me because I lived here for 20 years, hiked a lot, and never saw a Gila monster in my life. I came into this lab and started working on them and now I have 24 of them out in the field that I see regularly. And as I study these animals more and more, I am learning about all these interesting things that they can do physiologically, how they can cope with their environment when I would simply crumble out there. And so I can see these animals each year just getting by and some years are better than others. This year was a great year for them, as a matter of fact. And it's really rewarding to sort of see them bounce back from a rough year and just keep going.

Merry Lucero:
We continue our series on gasoline and the issues affecting consumers, geopolitics certainly impacts the price at the pump but how do national politics influence the price and how do gas prices affect politics? Horizon explores that plus what politicians can or cannot do about gas prices. That's Tuesday on horizon.

Michael Grant:
Thanks very much for joining us on this Monday evening. I'm Michael Grant. Hope you have a great one. Good night.

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