Letter: Worried about heating bills?

If recent months have taught me one thing, it is that if we think like a community we can achieve some amazing results. Thinking like a community is what brought about the Mid-Hudson Fuel Buying Co-op seven years ago. Frustrated at the cost of heating her home in the winter, a transplant from California was inspired by the Transition Town movement to find a better way. Starting with just one friend she negotiated a cheaper price for a buying group of two.

Last year, the co-op had around 1000 household members, not only in Ulster County, where it started, but also in Dutchess, Orange, Greene, Sullivan and Columbia counties. Managed by five unpaid independent volunteers without ties to any fuel supply company, the co-op charges $15 for annual membership, which pays for the online sign-up systems and for staffing of the co-op’s busy phone line. The fee entitles members to discounted fuel prices, discounts on service plans, equipment, and more, as negotiated by the volunteers with specific suppliers each year.

This year, the co-op offers two options for home heating oil, a flat rate of 1.949/gallon for the season (from date of contract through May 31, 2021) or a variable rate based on the previous day’s NYMEX settlement price plus 55 cents. For example, if you bought fuel oil on July 28, 2020, based on the variable rate, you would have paid $1.80/gallon. This compares to the average price for the region that week, as computed by Nyserda (NYS Energy Research & Development Authority) of $2.15/gallon.

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Propane users who use over 400 gallons in the season will pay $1.44/gallon and the smaller users will pay $1.65/gallon. These compare to Nyserda’s current average price for the region of $2.73/gallon.

Since the co-op functions as a not-for-profit organization, it relies on word of mouth, neighbors telling neighbors. I know it has helped countless families and individuals over the years, but the deadline for joining to get next winter’s prices is August 15. Time is running out. If you are worried about heating bills this winter, take a look at http://midhudsonfuelbuyingcoop.org/

Gai Galitzine
Kingston