If you want to see what you got back from overcharges on gasoline in the 1970s, wander over to Lorin Farr Park sometime this summer and admire the new cover for the pool.
That, plus a new solar heating system, are it. If you live in Ogden, that's the only part of the payback you can readily see.If you live in Brigham City you'll see a similar cover on the municipal pool there. Morgan City is getting new energy-efficient street lights. In Woods Cross, the municipal building has been insulated.
In all, 40 projects throughout the state totaling $350,000 have been funded this year as a result of overcharges that oil companies were found guilty of collecting between 1973 and 1981, covering the Arab oil embargo and oil shortages.
During that energy crisis, gasoline and home heating-oil prices rose higher than most consumers thought they should have. The courts agreed, fining the companies and ordering them to pay back the excess funds.
The amount awarded back to consumers by the courts was several billions of dollars, said Leon Peterson, assistant director of the Utah Energy Office. But because of the way the money was divided, plus the way the federal government handled its own funding for various programs, little of the money filtered down to consumers, he said.
The settlement couldn't just be mailed out to people, he said. That would have been too complex, and nobody would have received very much if it had been divided among 250 million people.
"I think someone figured out it would be something like 11 cents a person," he said.
So the courts ordered the money returned to the states instead. Since 1985, Utah has received about $18 million from the settlement, he said.
Of that total, the Utah Energy Office used $12 million for weatherization programs, institutional energy conservation programs, the energy conservation service, programs to educate builders and others on constructing energy-efficient buildings, and programs to promote mass transit and car pooling.
For example, he said, the money has been used by the Ogden Area Community Action Agency to pay for insulating homes of the poor. The Wasatch Front Regional Council used some of the money for transit planning and development.
The money also was used to retrofit public buildings with energy-efficient heaters and insulation, he said.
The other $6 million, he said, was used for wind- and solar-energy development projects.
Only $350,000 of the money was used for direct grants to local governments, he said. That money paid for the Lorin Farr pool improvements ($15,000), the Brigham City pool improvements ($7,000), Morgan City street lighting ($15,000) and other projects around the state.
Even though the money didn't go directly to consumers or to flashy public projects, he said, the energy office feels the money was well spent.
"Obviously, from our perspective, the programs we've been running here have really been cost-effective," he said.