Low heating fuel inventories cause concern in New England ahead of winter

Published: Aug. 29, 2022 at 9:51 AM EDT|Updated: Aug. 29, 2022 at 6:34 PM EDT
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BARRE, Vt. (WCAX) - Leaders in New England are keeping a close eye on home heating fuel supplies. War and weather are posing a challenge ahead of this winter.

Federal officials say heading into the winter, New England is 63% below the five-year average for heating oil supply.

Heating oil and kerosene heat about half of Vermont’s homes. The rest are a combination of wood, natural gas or propane

Matt Cota of the Vermont Fuel Dealers Association says the state may have a smaller supply but: “Are we going to have enough supply for the winter? The answer is an emphatic yes. What will the price be? No one can tell.”

State leaders say there’s no indication of a shortage of propane and Vermont’s natural gas supply comes from Canada-- that isn’t of concern.

The price of heating oil is backward-dated, so the price of oil is more expensive today than it is in the winter when half of Vermont homes need it.

In the coming months, the price of fuel is expected to fluctuate due to uncertainty about global fuel supplies due to the war in Ukraine.

“We’re also exporting much of that energy to Europe to help them out during that time when they are using less Russian oil and gas,” Cota said.

And there’s the potential for an active hurricane season knocking out refineries along the Gulf Coast.

Cota says there’s no need to panic buy but he says now is a good time to work with your fuel dealer to lock in a pricing program.

That’s what Michael Isabel did. He rents an apartment in Morrisville and locked in propane priced at $1.86 a gallon until next April.

“It doesn’t take much really, I mean we won’t have to do anything except turn the heater on which is nice for us,” Isabel said.

The Department of Public Service was not available for an interview on Monday but they say leaders are preparing and coordinating with other New England governors, and Gov. Phil Scott is planning a meeting with top Biden administration officials in the coming months.

But Cota says now is a good time to begin planning; cold weather will be here before we know it.

“Waiting until the first frost to think about how you’re going to heat your home is never a good idea,” Cota said. “Planning is always prudent and it may save you money this year.”

If home heating prices do increase this winter there are resources for Vermonters to keep their costs down-- fuel assistance benefits through LIHEAP, utility assistance programs and resources for weatherizing your home.