N E W Y O R K, Sept. 14 -- Fall hasn’t officially begun and the weather is still mild, but Gloria Dawson is busy helping families prepare for forecasted high energy prices this winter.
Dawson, who heads southeastern Vermont’s Community Action Agency, an arm of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, is helping low-income and elderly residents in this rural region prepare for expected eye-popping home heating oil bills.
The Department of Energy predicts heating oil will cost an average of $1.31 per gallon nationally at the start of the winter — almost one-third higher than a year ago. Natural gas is forecast to be 25 percent higher, at $8.59 per thousand cubic feet.
That’s why Dawson is buying as much heating oil as possible at fixed prices. She’s also helping families manage and settle remaining utility bills from the summer months before winter heating bills arrive. And in some cases, she’s even advising families to prepare a woodpile, just in case. “Enough to take them through a night,” Dawson said.
“There’s a lot of concern about what’s going to happen this winter,” she said.
Consumers Preparing Early
Like Dawson, many energy consumers across the country are bracing for predicted high costs for fuel, including home heating oil and natural gas. Homeowners are insulating their homes, replacing heaters and looking for price cuts — errands usually tackled in October.
Rozanne Weissman, director of the Alliance to Save Energy, a nonprofit group that encourages efficient energy use, is urging consumers to prepare for high fuel costs early.
“Get ahead of the curve. Everybody is going to be asking for the furnace repair person at the same time,” Weissman said.
Retailers who deliver fuel also are delivering the conservation message. “We’re telling retailers to start talking about conservation. We’re in this for the long haul,” said Jack Sullivan of the New England Fuel Institute, which represents oil dealers.