For the eight million Americans who use heating oil, soaring fuel costs have prompted chilly home owners warm up to make a switch to natural gas whose prices have fallen to 10-year-lows, according to a recent article in the New York Times.
Reasons cited for escalating heating oil costs, expected to continuing climbing this winter up to $3.79 a gallon, include refinery shut-downs, increased crude oil prices, ongoing political unrest in the Middle East, and greater demand from developing countries. Meanwhile, immense increases in natural gas reserves have driven down the price of the resource, making it downright cheap in some states, disrupting a decades-long trend where oil and gas prices mostly fluctuated alongside one another.
“Nationwide, the average household using oil spent $2,298 on heat last year, compared with $724 spent by gas users and $957 spent by electricity users, according to the Energy Department. This year, heating oil users are expected to spend 3.7 percent more than last year, while natural gas customers are expected to spend 7.3 percent less and electricity users will spend 2.4 percent less,” the Times reported.
Electricity companies have been using the currently low price of electricity to their advantage, advertising that bills will continue to be comparatively low, while gas providers have been emphasizing government utility incentives for heating oil users to switch.
While the wave of conversions has accelerated, due in part to new regulations that will phase out heavier heating oils, many are unable to run gas lines because of geographic isolation from pipelines or the steep price tag of changing over for each home, locking them into paying increasingly higher heating costs, the article observed. That leaves many cold in more ways than one.
This winter’s discontent yet another chapter in the decline of heating fuel since the 1970s, when population expansion and home construction relied on greater proximity to gas supply, allowing for more efficient and convenient gas appliances such as gas ranges and tankless water heaters. The trend is expected to continue.