Get the Facts Before Negotiating an Annual Fuel Contract

The U.S. Energy Information Administration of the DOE maintains a valuable resource which supports transparency in pricing for consumer energy.  In the northeastern U.S., heating oil is one of the primary sources for home energy.  If memory serves, it's always been deregulated, with consumers free to select among numerous, typically small local providers -- and there are a few much larger providers as well. With further deregulation, now other utilities also allow consumers to shop for fuel sources.

But where can one turn for objective information on wholesale fuel prices?

Not only does the site house historical data for multiple fuel categories such as heating oil, diesel and natural gas, but it features a tailorable and downloadable capability for obtaining just the information needed to support local decision-making. The agency also offers a weekly newsletter with analysis of current U.S. and global market conditions, including trends for the upcoming year and the long term prognosis for certain fuel categories.

A basic fact to arm oneself with for negotiating annual heating oil contracts is a region's average retail price per gallon.  For example, for heating oil less any applicable tax in September 2008, it was 366.60 for the Northeast region, whereas in September 2009 it was 235.20.  (Contract prices will be lower).

Weaknesses to bear in mind:
  • Very local market conditions are not included; analysis and historical data is collected for large geographical regions, and prices can vary greatly within those regions
  • Current presentations on the site do not facilitate direct energy source comparisons, e.g., heating oil vs. natural gas comparisons
  • Longer term (beyond a year) forecasts for supply and cost are not provided

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