If we’ve learned anything in the first 16 years of the 21st century, it’s that expecting the unexpected is the best way to plan for the future.
If that sounds a little scary, let’s consider heating oil prices. Who would have guessed two years ago when prices were heading towards $4.00 a gallon that we’d now be looking at prices averaging just over $2.00? As a fuel oil dealer, we welcome the budget relief that low prices offer customers, but want to be sure we (and our customers) think a bit about some of the challenges that this extreme volatility can bring.
In Vermont, the good news is that fuel prices are currently averaging 19¢ a gallon below the same month of 2015. The bad news is that we’ve seen a steady price increase since March.
It’s easy to point to several factors that could affect heating fuel prices as we get closer to the cold winter weather:
- Some weather experts are predicting the that end of the strongest El Nino in recorded history has started to make a transition into a La Nina-like state which could mean colder than average temperatures and more snow in the Northeast this winter. This is a welcome relief for those Vermonters that depend on the snow for recreation or livelihood, but a potential problem for those of us who will use more heating oil.
- The presidential candidates have adopted different positions for and against climate change action that could eventually trickle down to affect gasoline and heating oil prices.
- A recent New York Times article quotes OPEC sources who are speculating that a global output freeze could take place in September, when most members, plus non-members such as Russia, are expected to attend an International Energy Forum meeting in Algeria.
What can we do now to help protect our household budgets from future price increases? To use a sports metaphor, “our best defense is a good offense.”
- Do everything you can to improve your home’s energy efficiency and reduce the amount of heating fuel you use. Even simple things like adding insulation and regular heating system tune ups can make a big difference.
- Consider harnessing renewable energy sources to heat your home and provide your hot water. Rooftop or in-ground solar along with a cold-climate heat pump is a great choice that is becoming more and more popular.
- Sign up for price protection to lock in today’s low prices for the rest of the season. Combine this with a budget payment plan and you’ll eliminate those nasty mid-winter surprises when your oil usage spikes during a cold snap.
At the Energy Co-op, our goal is to help our members use less fossil fuel and save money. Don’t let the fuel price roller coaster leave you at the station. Call us today for a free home energy review or to schedule your pre-winter system tune up.