Consumer Affairs and SHOPP Coordinator, Department of Energy Resources
As heating fuel prices continue to rise, DOER receives a lot of questions about how pricing, specifically for heating oil, works. Heating oil (and propane) prices are market based just like gasoline and diesel prices and are not regulated by the state as electric and natural gas prices are (see www.mass.gov/dpu). Additionally, heating oil, like all petroleum based fuels, is part of the global market and subject to the fluctuations that can entail.
So how can consumers and business follow the trends on these prices? In addition to the weekly prices surveys from DOER, the US Energy Information Agency (EIA) follows all energy sectors and publishes reports and forecasts on its website. EIA’s weekly This Week in Petroleum updates all petroleum products and highlights events that are impacting pricing and supply. The monthly Short-Term Energy Outlook updates pricing and supply forecasts from EIA’s Annual Energy Outlook. There is even an International Energy Outlook section that looks at various scenarios through 2035.
For more direct information on heating oil and propane, click on the Heating and Propane update section, that includes a link to the 2010 Winter Fuels Outlook. This section includes market graphs on wholesale and retail prices plus information on market trends. Additionally there is a primer explaining “Factors Effecting Heating Oil Prices,” for those looking for basic information. Same is available for propane and other fuels.
The US EIA website is a great resource for those interested in following energy markets and trends. Familiarizing yourself with how prices work can help you identify trends that lead to higher prices (such as higher crude oil prices=higher petroleum fuel prices) and encourage you to take steps, such as energy efficiency measures, to protect yourself from the impact of rising prices.