The same global oil market forces that have sent gasoline and diesel prices into free fall look likely to help homeowners and businesses that use heating oil reap big dividends this winter too.
Larry Chretien, executive director of the Massachusetts Energy Consumers Alliance, said: "This year, if you're an oil consumer, you're probably going to spend $500 to $1,000 less than last year."
The alliance helps 14,000 people in Massachusetts and Rhode Island get bulk discounts on home heating oil and this year has the best news he's had in a long time: heating oil prices are at 10-year lows. "Even if we had a cold winter, we expect to have plenty of oil, so the supply and demand situation is working to the favor of consumers," Chretien said.
It's a trend that will help wallets all over new england. 34 to 35 percent of homeowners in Massachusetts and Rhode Island heat with oil. That rises to the mid-40s in Connecticut, Vermont, and New Hampshire, all the way up to 67 percent in Maine.
The current Massachusetts average price of $2.39 a gallon compares to a whopping $3.50 a year ago. But the Massachusetts Division of Energy Resources' latest survey found a range of anywhere from $1.86 to $3.70 a gallon. "That's just proof right there that you should be shopping around," Chretien said. "You can pay certainly closer to $2 than $3. It just doesn't make sense to throw that extra dollar away."
Michael Ferrante. Head of the Massachusetts Energy Marketers Association, which represents dozens of oil dealers, said, "There's lots of heating oil in storage and we're not seeing any inventory drops. Inventories are quite strong."
"I've been doing this job twenty years,'' Ferrante said, "and I would say that consumers can really rely on stable and economical prices throughout the winter."
With videographer Tony Sabato