BRUNSWICK, Maine (NEWS CENTER) -- It's late September and there's a chill in the air. That means Mainers are starting to think about heating their homes for the winter - and how much it will cost.
Heating oil is still the primary fuel for home heating in Maine, and prices have gone up over the summer. At Downeast Energy in Brunswick, vice-president John Peters says their June pre-buy price was $3.54 per gallon. He says wholesale prices have jumped dramatically since then, and today's cash price was $3.73.
Will prices go much higher? People in the business say they don't dare predict if prices will keep climbing... only that prices will remain volatile.
Jamie Py of the Maine Energy Marketers Association says the biggest influence on oil prices is not winter weather or even international supply and demand. He says heating oil prices are controlled by the international commodities markets, where oil futures are bought and sold by investors, not those who plan to use the oil.
Web: Governor's Energy Office
His advice to homeowners: sign up for a payment plan with an oil dealer, so you can have some protection from price swings. Those who can't make such arrangements, or choose to be at the mercy of the market, say people in the energy business, run the risk of a "difficult winter".
State energy director Ken Fletcher has some good energy news, though. He says that since 2004, Maine has cut its use of heating oil in half through conservation, insulation, switching to alternative fuels and more efficient technology. Fletcher says industry figures show that in 2004, Maine used 415,000,000 gallons of heating oil. Preliminary figures for 2010, he says, show consumption had dropped to about 200,000,000 gallons.