OpinionMaine's heating oil crisis about to get worse

Maine’s heating oil crisis about to get worse

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Most individuals, after they consider Maine, consider moose or winters so chilly they evoke life on Hoth. It ought to come as no shock that home-heating gasoline is likely one of the state’s most significant commodities, and the present vitality disaster is hitting Mainers notably laborious.

I went to school in Maine and have lived there for rather less than 5 years. Mainers are robust. While you ask about winter, they often simply shrug. This yr is completely different. This yr, they fear too.

They’re anxious about having the ability to afford to warmth their properties. Retirees and aged people particularly are involved, as fastened incomes imply heating prices drains cash for different necessities.

Whereas gasoline costs have grabbed the highlight, it’s residence heating oil that’s most vital in Maine, the place the snow has been recognized to fly as early as October. Virtually 60% of Maine properties use heating oil, in comparison with simply 4% nationally. Mix that dependency with Maine’s aged inhabitants (the oldest within the nation), and a miserable image comes into focus. The Biden administration’s restriction of fossil fuels could have aged Mainers, lots of them on fastened incomes, paying large quantities of their month-to-month earnings to warmth their properties.

With oil costs skyrocketing within the final yr, the value of residence heating oil in Maine greater than doubled from $2.55 a gallon in Might 2021 to $5.86 a gallon in Might 2022.

It’s no marvel Maine’s authorities has appealed for federal support for heating oil, asking for $38.7 million to fund its Low-Earnings Heating Help Program (LIHEAP) to assist poor households keep heat. However when heating oil stays close to $5 a gallon (because it has since March), $40 million solely will get you thus far in heating the 40,000 households at present enrolled in this system. Even with the extra funding, LIHEAP would solely present sufficient funds to fill half a tank of heating oil for every Maine family.

For a lot of Mainers, the state’s software for heating oil help merely comes too late. Heating oil rose to a report value of $6 a gallon originally of the summer time. State and federal leaders didn’t apply for federal support till late July, regardless of ample warning.

Federal lawmakers have made overtures to President Biden to restrict pure gasoline exports and launch extra oil from the Northeast Dwelling Heating Oil Reserve and the Strategic Petroleum Reserve. The price of changing a house heating oil system to a pure gasoline system begins at $2,000, and upgrading an current residence heating oil system can value wherever from $8,000 to $10,000. For many Mainers on fastened incomes, that’s prohibitively costly.

As Maine grapples with gasoline costs which are nonetheless above $4 a gallon and its residents put together to spend the third-highest quantity on meals in all the nation, the state is primed for an ideal financial winter storm. Whereas prices rise, incomes have remained under the nationwide common.

The Biden administration’s formidable targets for a transition to renewable vitality, although well-intentioned, are clearly out of contact. A easy temperature verify in Maine reveals they should be adjusted. Maine wants oil and gasoline now. Local weather change could also be a urgent concern for the way forward for our nation, however throttling the oil business leaves Maine out within the chilly at the moment. Biden should loosen up restrictions on federal leasing for oil drilling, if just for the season. By selling a multifaceted vitality portfolio, he may encourage the event of renewable vitality whereas defending states which are nonetheless depending on oil.

Maine is an enormous state, with than 60% of the inhabitants dwelling in rural areas. Mainers in these remoted areas are rugged and self-sufficient, generally dwelling as near off-the-grid as potential. These people don’t want colder winters. However due to present vitality insurance policies that’s exactly what they’ll get.


Roy Mathews graduated from Bates Faculty in Lewiston, Maine, and beforehand labored at Aii, an vitality assume tank in Washington, D.C.

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