New York, NY, Jan. 15, 2010 --- The CITGO-Venezuela Heating Oil Program, which helped more than 200,000 households last winter, officially began its fifth consecutive season today. The president and CEO of CITGO Petroleum Corporation, Alejandro Granado; the chairman of Citizens Programs Corporation, Joseph P. Kennedy II; and the ambassador of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela to the United States, Bernardo Álvarez, launched the 2010 edition of the program in New York City with a celebratory ceremony.
The event took place at the historic Riverside Church, which has a rich tradition of supporting social justice and peace efforts. During the 1960s, the church was actively involved in the Civil Rights movement and has been a supporter of peace efforts throughout time. In fact, Riverside Church was the first church in New York City to welcome Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. to its pulpit.
“CITGO is very proud to mark the fifth anniversary of our Heating Oil Program, our flagship social development initiative, which is in alignment with the solidarity principles endorsed by the government of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela through its national oil company, Petróleos de Venezuela, S.A (PDVSA),” Granado said.
“Today is a good day and this is a good place to launch our program and celebrate social justice. It is the 81st birthday of Dr. King and CITGO is thus re-affirming its commitment to supporting low-income people and issues of social justice,” Granado said.
“Our program helps thousands of households, tribal communities and shelters in the U.S. each year and is without doubt one of the most important social development initiatives implemented by any large energy corporation in history. We are also deeply thankful to Rev. Robert Coleman and Riverside Church for allowing us to launch the program here on this momentous occasion,” he added.
The CITGO president and CEO highlighted that approximately 50,000 families and 39 shelters received assistance from the program in New York City last year alone, and pointed out that the need for heating assistance is expected to increase significantly this year. “In fact, a recent editorial in The New York Times highlighted that more than 10 million people nationally are likely to need help to keep the heat on this winter,” he noted.
In carrying out the program, CITGO has partnered with Citizens Programs Corporation, a non-profit organization created by Joseph P. Kennedy II during the oil price shocks of the late 1970s.
“Every year, we hear from families who struggle each and every day to put food on the table and heat their homes,” said Kennedy. “The economic downturn has made the situation even worse. Parents have lost jobs. Families have lost health care along with their employment. More and more people are turning to programs like ours to keep their families warm.”
“We are deeply grateful to CITGO Petroleum and the people of Venezuela for their generosity to Americans in need,” added Kennedy. “We ask major oil companies and oil-producing nations every year to help our senior citizens and the poor make it through winter, and only one company, CITGO Petroleum, and one country, Venezuela, has responded to our appeals.”
On this 5th anniversary of the program, it is fitting to reflect on the historical origins of this initiative. The CITGO-Venezuela Heating Oil Program came about in the aftermath of Hurricanes Rita and Katrina, as a response to the need of thousands of low-income people in the United States affected by the high price of heating oil in 2005.
This plea triggered an open letter on Oct. 27, 2005 from 12 U.S. Senators, including Senators John Kerry, Hillary Clinton and Harry Reid. They requested that oil companies step forward to help low-income families affected by the high prices of heating oil. As the senators stated in their letter, “American families need economic relief from high energy prices.”
Venezuelan Ambassador Bernardo Alvarez pointed out that the sustained need for heating assistance in the U.S. highlights the importance of the social development vision which is embedded in the energy policy of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela. “In the past, Venezuela’s oil wealth only benefited a few. Over the last 10 years, though, we have developed a policy that prioritizes the investment of the industry’s profits in the Venezuelan people and the infrastructure of our country, as well as in the core aspects of the industry.”
“Just as the government of President Hugo Chávez has made significant efforts in the fight against poverty and in the promotion of social justice in Venezuela, we hope that this program can help needy communities and groups in the U.S. to weather cold winters”, Álvarez added. “We have had a binding historic relationship with the United States of America, a fraternal bond with its people and a vibrant commercial relationship with its consumers and the business sector. The CITGO-Venezuela Heating Oil Program is the best expression of the consistency of the social values of the government of President Hugo Chavez and its good will toward the American people.”
“While we have the possibility to help, it is our responsibility to continue helping low-income families, indigenous tribes and homeless shelters in the U.S. during the cold winter months. Moreover, oil companies should be discussing this type of initiative, combining and complementing their efforts for the benefit of the underprivileged.”
“We’re proud to be able to extend this hand of friendship and assistance to the people of the U.S. As the winter wears on, no one should be forced to choose between heat, food or medicine. Venezuela is happy to help where it can,” Álvarez concluded.
Families interested in receiving free heating oil can call Citizens Programs Corporation at 1-877-JOE-4-OIL (1-877-564-4645) or apply online at www.citizensenergy.com. Once approved, the household receives an authorization letter and calls its heating oil dealer to arrange a delivery.
CITGO, based in Houston, is a refiner, transporter and marketer of transportation fuels, lubricants, petrochemicals and other industrial products. The company is owned by PDV America, Inc., an indirect wholly owned subsidiary of Petróleos de Venezuela, S.A., the national oil company of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela.