Dear Editor:

Upon the recent receipt of my latest Jo-Carroll bill, I revisited Michael J. Casper's letter regarding their exorbitant gas prices. This masterpiece of obfuscation cited frigid temperatures, high demand and limited supply, and high spot market prices while conveniently omitting any reference to Jo-Carroll's possible contribution to this fiasco.

By failing to consider that Jo-Carroll might be culpable in any way for their failure to provide natural gas at affordable prices, he virtually guarantees that they will never "get to the bottom of why this price travesty occurred." Undoubtedly that is the point.

Reviewing my bill and the recently reported West Carroll school bills strongly suggests that Jo-Carroll failed to adequately hedge their purchase of gas. When their contracted supply of gas proved insufficient, whatever "gas storage strategies" Jo-Carroll had proved likewise to be insufficient and they were forced into the spot market with catastrophic results.

This conclusion is only bolstered by Mr. Casper's hand waving and omission of any mention of what proportion of Jo-Carroll's February gas supply was bought on the spot market or what price they were forced to pay, information he surely had, as that would be required to calculate our sky-high bills.

Further undermining Mr. Casper's position that Jo-Carroll was an innocent victim of forces beyond its control is the huge disparity in West Carroll's gas bills between Mount Carroll (served by Nicor) and Savanna (served by Jo-Carroll).

This is not an isolated example. My sister's latest Nicor bill to heat her older two-story house was less than $100 compared to my Jo-Carroll bill for $791.17 to heat my older two-story house to 60 degrees. Nicor charged her about 8 cents per therm vs. Jo-Carroll's charge of $1.50920 per therm. This is a high price to pay for Jo-Carroll's bungling, or to be charitable, their lack of preparation for a cold month. In view of the above, Mr. Casper's search for the cause of this "travesty" is likely to play out like O.J. Simpson's search for the real killer of his wife.

When the real strategy appears to be to assure us that energy costs had "leveled out as of February 19" and ride out the bad publicity, Jo-Carroll is clearly not committed to ensuring that this will not happen again, especially when their market monopoly guarantees they will not be held accountable when it does.

The real answer is to allow Jo-Carroll's captive customers the same right to "vote with their feet" and contract with other natural gas providers that the rest of the state enjoys. Contact your state representatives and the governor and tell them it's time to repeal the co-op exemption that protects outfits like Jo-Carroll from the discipline of the marketplace.

David Hanson