I'm Steve Ember with the VOA Special English Economic Report.
Today, we look back on some top stories of two thousand five. In January, we heard about the retirement plans, or pensions, of several airline companies in the United States. The Pension Benefit Guarantee Corporation has since taken control of the pensions of U.S. Airways and United Airlines. Also, Delta Airlines and Northwest Airlines requested legal protection from their creditors in September.
The Pension Benefit Guarantee Corporation protects the pensions of more than thirty-four million workers. The federal agency takes control of troubled pension plans. It says the pensions of Delta and Northwest have a total deficit of more than sixteen thousand million dollars.
But the agency has its own troubles. Its chief, Bradley Belt, said in November that the financial health of the agency was not improving. The Pension Benefit Guarantee Corporation reported a deficit of almost twenty-three thousand million dollars this year. Last month, the United States Senate passed rules to strengthen pension plans. But the House of Representatives is not likely to vote on new rules soon.
In September, fuel prices hit new highs. American drivers paid an average of three dollars and seven cents a gallon, or almost four liters. Damaging storms and growing demand were blamed for much of the increase. Hurricane Katrina and Rita damaged about one-third of all oil and natural gas production in the Gulf of Mexico.
The Department of Energy says problems of supply will remain until next year. As a result, most Americans will pay more for heating during the winter. Natural gas prices could increase the most. But pressure on drivers appears to be easing. Gasoline prices dropped to about two dollars twenty centers a gallon by the middle of December.
This year also marked the tenth anniversary of e-commerce. To many Americans, it may seem much longer. Amazon-dot-com opened in July of nineteen ninety-five. The store has received credit for changing people's opinions about buying over the Internet.
How much has the Internet changed the way Americans buy things? On the final Monday in November, Americans bought nearly five hundred million dollars in goods over the Internet. That represents a twenty-six percent increase from the same day last year.
This VOA Special English Economics Report was written by Mario Ritter. I'm Steve Ember.