Schenectady County

Heating forecast causing chills

Although afternoon temperatures will hover around 80 degrees this week and furnaces have long since

Although afternoon temperatures will hover around 80 degrees this week and furnaces have long since been turned off for the summer, some people are already looking toward winter as home heating oil prices continue to skyrocket.

According to the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority, the average price for heating oil in the Capital Region was just under $4.57 per gallon last month, 77.3 percent higher than local prices in June 2007.

The estimated 8 million American households that use home heating oil may need to bundle up and turn the thermostat down at home this winter.

John Bove Jr., the chief financial officer of G. A. Bove Fuels in Mechanicville, said customers are buying less heating oil this year than in the past.

“Higher oil prices lessen margin, so we don’t make as much,” he said. “It costs more to operate our vehicles. All of our vehicles operate on diesel fuel.”

Bove said the company normally buys about 50 percent of the home heating oil it will sell in the winter by July to take advantage of low summer demand, but due to the volatility of the market, it has purchased less than 20 percent of its expected winter sales so far this year.

“We don’t want to get stuck high, but unfortunately that leaves us to the whim of the market,” he said. “It’s a nightmare.”

The company is still offering budgeted and prepaid plans where customers can either pay for their winter fuel months in advance or smooth energy costs out over a 10-month period during the year.

Bove Fuels services about 2,700 customers in the area.

One Bove customer, Mechanicville Mayor Anthony Sylvester, said that he plans to consider buying his personal home heating oil on a budget plan this year.

He said he spent about $1,800 last year on home heating oil and expects that cost to nearly double this year.

“I think I might get on a budget plan this year. I never have been before,” he said. “It’s going to impact whether I decide to take retirement, [whether I can] continue the lifestyle I lead.”

He said he also plans to lower his thermostat and wear sweaters and socks around the house and will encourage his wife to do the same.

“They’re definitely cutting back,” Bove said. “Some people are planning on winterizing half their house and just not using half their house [during the winter].”

“We certainly encourage people to look at what’s available out there to help them reduce energy costs,” NYSERDA spokeswoman Colleen Ryan said. “I think energy is something people are much more aware of and our programs have helped throughout the years to reduce energy costs for folks.”

Ryan said one suggestion to reduce heating costs is to use a programmable thermostat that adjusts the temperature when nobody is home. She also suggested paying a contractor to inspect the home for any areas where energy efficiency could be improved.

NYSERDA offers assistance or loans to qualifying low-income households to help pay for costs involved in making a home more energy efficient, Ryan said.

According to a U.S. Department of Energy study, crude oil accounts for about 42 percent of the cost of home heating oil. Marketing and distributing makes up 46 percent and refining accounts for the other 12 percent of the cost.

Home heating oil was under $1 per gallon in the Capital Region as recently as November 1999. The price hit $2 per gallon in November 2004 and was up to $3.17 last November, according to NYSERDA.

“We think it’s going to peak this summer and then start to drift down, because the economy can’t sustain these prices,” Bove said. “Eventually, there will be less demand, and if demand weakens and supply stays steady, then obviously the price will come down in theory.”

Categories: Schenectady County

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