The price of home heating oil has fallen significantly, according to the Energy Information Administration. It’s down to $4.47 a gallon this week after hitting a record high of $5.93 per gallon in November.
That’s a little piece of good news for some homeowners and renters — especially in the Northeast, where a lot of people use it to heat their homes.
We’ve got about six more weeks of winter (if the groundhog is right, anyway). So far, it’s been a relatively mild one.
“Now, that’s not to say we don’t have cold snaps,” said Hugh Daigle at the University of Texas at Austin. “Obviously in the Northeast, there was a very severe cold snap very recently. But in general, the temperatures are higher.”
That means people who heat their homes with oil are using less of it this year, and it’s a big reason the price has come down.
Another reason is that crude oil prices have been falling. “Heating oil is a refined product that comes from crude oil,” said Ryan Kellogg at the University of Chicago. “So those prices are going to move at least somewhat in sync.”
But even though heating oil has dropped, “it’s still expensive,” said Mark Wolfe at the National Energy Assistance Directors Association.
“So, there’s some glimmers of, ‘Gee, it’s not as bad as we thought it was going to get.’ But it’s still high,” he added.
A lot of people are turning to the federally funded Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program — or LIHEAP — for help paying their heating bills.
“We’re finding that applications for assistance are way up. We’re getting numbers like 15%, 20%, 25% more than last year,” Wolfe said.
That’s partly because, thanks to inflation, all kinds of necessities cost a lot more now.
“I also think that we’re still seeing recovery from the pandemic. There were a lot of families that got behind during that time and have yet to catch up,” said Katrina Metzler at the National Energy and Utility Affordability Coalition.
A lot of COVID relief — including rental and utility assistance — has also run out, she said. But Congress did approve more funding than usual for energy assistance for low-income families this year.
“Our regular appropriation for LIHEAP is only somewhere in the neighborhood of $3.85 [billion],” Metzler said. “So at $6.1 billion, it is more than what we normally would have, less than what we had last year.”
And thanks to that, a mildish winter and heating oil prices coming down, Wolfe at the energy assistance directors group said that right now, most states still have money to go around.
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