Heating costs stay high

It was shirtsleeve weather for several days again this past week, which means we should have been saving more for winter getaways for a change. Right?

Wrong. According to energy company executives, state officials and local firewood guys, fuel costs are higher than ever this winter.

“There’s been no icebreaking charges this year, but we’re dealing with the same things as most of our customers, including the cost of fuel, the cost of financing,” says Barry Motzkin of Kosco, one of the region’s largest fuel companies. “At the same time our costs for delivery have gone up dramatically, though it’s 53 degrees outside and people are not turning on their heat. There’s been a real change in usage. And yes, some of that’s come because we’ve been helping people make their homes more efficient. But it puts us 20 percent off.”

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A look at base fuel cost figures from the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority showed the state and region’s “heating degree days” for the last month, and season to date, were “significantly below the normal trend, at about 17.7 per cent below normal, and nearly 25 percent below last year’s figures.” Yet at the same time, fuel prices have been inching ever closer to records set in 2008, and on a much steeper upward slope than the cost of crude oil or gasoline. Compared to a year earlier, prices increased 42.2 cents per gallon, or 11.7 percent, for heating oil, and just over one per gallon, or 10.5 percent, for kerosene. Propane decreased 2.6 cents per gallon, or just under one percent.

“You ask whether any of this has to do with supply and demand? Well, that’s a very good question,” Motzkin said, delving into a detailed discussion of the growing price differentiation between the cost of crude oil and gasoline and that for fuel oil, still the number-one heating fuel in the area. “It all comes down to the way these commodities are trading,” he said. “And what it costs us to transport.”

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