Thursday, August 28, 2008

Keeping warm this winter.

The Oil Drum news roundup posted from Reuters:
DrumBeat: August 27, 2008
Posted by Leanan on August 27, 2008 - 10:03am
US heating oil dealers clamp down on unpaid bills

NEW YORK (Reuters) - U.S. heating oil dealers are using new software to weed out clients who may not pay their bills as Americans gear up for another winter of high fuel costs in the world's top consumer.

Heating oil dealers in New York City, Long Island, and Connecticut have turned to real-time information software provided by a consumer reporting agency that allows data-sharing to track delinquent clients -- a more common problem with the rise in prices.

"In many cases, delinquent oil bills don't get posted to the large credit-reporting agencies," said John Maniscalco, executive vice president of the New York Oil Heating Association. "Given the current situation of the industry where bills are large and consumers are getting shut off, they tend to jump from one company to another."

This summer has been extremely mild, and even the Farmer's Almanac is predicting a colder than usual winter.

(Note: "climate change" does NOT mean "global warming," as some enviro-fanatics claim. Some areas will not actually get warmer - their climate will simply shift from wetter to drier or from drier to wetter, or even from warmer to cooler.)

The cost of home heating oil, like other petroleum products, will depend upon supply and demand. We already know that supply is weakening - what will make or break us will be the weather. It's hard to believe in this day and age we are still at the mercy of the most basic elements, but it's true. If this winter is fairly cold, the demand for heating oil will rise further and costs will go up - and credit is pretty much non-existent for new home equity or consumer loans. That means everyone who relies on home heating oil this winter had better be saving up CASH now, because simply switching from provider to provider when you can't pay an old bill is no longer going to be an option.

Another helpful strategy would be to stock up now on electric space heaters (I don't recommend kerosene), but know also that you must be careful with these - they can be a fire hazard. If you have a fireplace, get it cleaned and serviced (and weatherproofed if there are cracks around the chimney or fireplace doors) and plan to use it. A simple fan can help blow heat from a warm room with a fireplace to other parts of the house. You might also consider installing ceiling vents to allow heat to rise into the upper story (if you have one) naturally. You should also consider closing off hard-to-heat north-facing areas of your house, even if it means some of you sleep on inflatable mattresses or sleeping bags in warmer rooms. Make sure all windows and unused doors are covered with insulating plastic and heavy drapes. Use expanding foam spray to fill all holes and crevices around pipes and cables that are entering or exiting your house. Weatherstrip and put sweeps on the bottoms of the main doors to seal all visible cracks - use a flashlight to double-check them. And, of course, round up all the sweaters and sweatshirts you can, because you may have to turn the thermostat down a bit from what you generally prefer.

Don't put off thinking about this until the last minute, class. If you need to save up cash to pay for heating oil, you're going to have to start now.

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