Heating-oil prices unusually high | Seattle Times Newspaper

Local News | Heating-oil prices unusually high | Seattle Times Newspaper

Heating-oil prices unusually high
An unusually cool winter likely has left heating-oil tanks dry, but it might be smart to wait to refill.
By Brittney Wong
Seattle Times staff reporter
An unusually cool winter likely has left heating-oil tanks low, but it might be smart to wait to refill.
The price for heating oil is unseasonably high, said Lea Wilson, executive director of the Washington Oil Marketers Association. If you’re considering whether to replenish now, she suggests trying to hold out.
“I would wait until we’re in the peak of the summer months,” Wilson said. “That’s when you’d like to fill your tank; that’s when the diesel prices will be at their lowest.”
She estimated prices could be as much as 30 percent lower during July and August compared with current rates of $4.20 to $4.65 per gallon.
A typical Washington customer uses 600 to 700 gallons of oil per year, Wilson said, which means an annual bill of close to $3,000 at current prices. About 85,000 to 100,000 homes in Washington use oil heating.
Heating a home with natural gas costs a little more than $1,000 per year, according to Puget Sound Energy, and that includes heating water and other appliances.
Those who use electric baseboard heating spend about $570 a year for heating, according to Seattle City Light, and only $285 if they use electric heat pumps.
Kevin Cox, oil department manager at Olson Energy Service in Seattle, said the price spike is affecting business.
“Our customers are not taking as much oil; they’re having a more difficult time paying,” he said. “They’re telling us to hold off on deliveries and going without heat in some cases.”
Cox theorized that problems in the Middle East and the actions of oil speculators might be raising prices.
Ron Glatz, owner of Rossoe Energy Systems in Seattle, agreed. But he added that the heating-oil industry is becoming outdated and people are changing the way they receive power.
“[The industry] is in the mature state,” Glatz said. “Every day we have fewer customers because of the inroads from gas utilities.”
Wilson said demand in the Northeast and Midwest has been so high that it might be affecting oil availability here and driving up prices.
She said she expects prices to start dropping by late May.
“Every day we’re holding our breath to see what happens,” Cox said.
“We believe these prices are artificially high and they’re going to come down in the future, but we don’t know when the future will start.”
Brittney Wong: 206-464-3195 or bwong@seattletimes.com