Most of the junk mail I have received in regard to electric aggregation says that we could save $300 per year. It seems to me that the people who would receive the greatest help will be those who use electric heat. -- Sandi Bennett, of Shiloh
Naturally, the more electricity you use, the more you're potentially going to save, because each kilowatt-hour may be cheaper, depending on each company's rates.
So, yes, someone who uses electric heat may reap more savings than those with gas heat -- just as a family with 10 kids, six computers and four IMAX-screen TVs will save much more than a hermit who spends his nights reading by the light of a 12-watt energy-saving bulb.
Still, the savings may be nothing to sneeze at. For whatever reason, I keep a record of my monthly use of therms and kilowatt-hours, so I went back and added every kilowatt-hour (kwh) I have used since last Halloween.
The resulting figure was a pleasant surprise. According to the latest estimate we ran from the spokesman for Good Energy, an energy consultant management group, Belleville residents might lower their electric-supply rate by a penny and a half per kilowatt-hour if they approve aggregation Tuesday (and if they don't opt out later).
While that may sound like peanuts, when I multiplied that by my electric usage, the total came to just under $100. That's no $300, but I live alone and my cats usually can't work the remotes. Besides, an extra $8 a month is better than nothing.
To find out your own savings, I recommend you do the same. Even if you aren't as obsessive as I am in keeping a computerized file of monthly bills, you can always go to www.amerenillinois.com (or whomever your electric supplier is) and find your kwh usage for the past year.
Multiply that by the difference in rates between electric suppliers and you'll get a reasonable idea of the extra money you'll be stuffing into your purse.
One caveat: It all depends on the difference in rates between suppliers so those savings could go up or down depending on any price adjustments by the companies. Remember, too, you're only looking for the supply cost. You'll still pay Ameren, for example, for their costs to distribute the power. For a more detailed explanation, go to www.amerenillinois.com and click the link under "Electric Choice."
After hearing about all the people who were dislocated during Hurricane Sandy, we are wondering where seagulls go for safety. -- G.R., of Freeburg
If all you know about sea gulls came from Red Skelton's skits about Gertrude and Heathcliff, let me tell you that these birds aren't nearly as dumb as the comedian made them look.
Avian experts say birds have something similar to a sixth sense -- a heightened sensitivity to changes in air pressure. So when pressure starts to drop ahead of a storm's arrival, they seem to know instinctively that they must take off for shelter immediately. This is particularly true in the fall when they don't have young-uns to worry about.
The most powerful birds fly ahead of the storm, carried by the winds at the storm's forefront. Like people, shorebirds often move inland for shelter. Smaller birds may try to ride out storms by curling their uniquely muscled feet around branches or find shelter in the holes of trees.
What you may find especially fascinating is that the eye of the hurricane often presents as much of a problem as the ferocious winds, experts say. Some birds may be picked up by the storm and carried long distances as they become trapped in the calm eye, which becomes a kind of natural bird cage until the storm dissipates.
Of course, like humans, some of those winged wonders won't survive. When Hurricane Hugo hit Puerto Rico in 1989, for example, it wiped out half of an endangered population of 50 parrots. Some died in the storm; some died later because they became more vulnerable to predators when they were blown into new surroundings.
One National Biological Service scientist found songbirds on the ground and under cover during the storm, waiting for it to pass. They also found oceanic birds miles inland, but figured many inland birds may have perished when they were blown out to sea.
The only good thing -- if you want to call it that -- is that it sometimes gives birders a chance to see species they might not otherwise spot.
When someone suggested that actress Katharine Hepburn receive top billing because of the "ladies-first" rule, what did Spencer Tracy reportedly say?
Answer to Thursday's trivia: That ominous voice warning you not to adjust your TV set during the opening of "The Outer Limits" belonged to Vic Perrin, who moved from old-time radio in the 1940s and 1950s to a lucrative career in TV until his death in 1989 at age 73. Fans of the original "Star Trek" will remember him as the voice of Nomad on "The Changeling" and as Metron in "Arena."
Send your questions to Roger Schlueter, Belleville News-Democrat, 120 S. Illinois St., P.O. Box 427, Belleville, IL 62222-0427 or firstname.lastname@example.org