Cold and costly, winter’s just around the corner

  • Sep. 28, 2005 7:00 a.m.

By Jeff King–It’s likely going to cost you significantly more to heat your house this winter than last, particularly if you use oil or propane, but even if you use wood.
The culprit? Rising petroleum prices and uncertainty in the market caused by the two back-to-back hurricanes in the Gulf of Mexico.
Here’s how it affects the islands.
“(The price of heating oil) has been rising steadily since May, like everything has been, but after the hurricane, it took a pretty significant jump, then it went back down again and now it’s on the rise again,” said Natanis Hageman, manager of oil supplier North Arm Transportation in Masset. “I don’t really know (what’s coming). I know the predictions on the internet is that it’s going to continue to rise. Where it’s going to end, I don’t know,” she said.
Last year, North Arm sold home heating for 67.4-cents per litre, now it’s 85-cents, an increase of about 126-percent. As well, stove oil was 68.4-cents a year ago, and now is 87.5-cents.
“We try to maintain competitive rates,” Ms Hageman said, “we try not to fluctuate as much as the lower mainland.”
The cost of propane is also on the increase, and it too is unpredictable, although like oil, it’s not likely to go down.
Last year, Coastal Propane was selling its product for 61.9-cents a litre, today it’s 73.9-cents. That’s an increase over last year of about 19-percent, and it’s not going down soon, according to Hardip Jhajj, the company’s manager in Prince Rupert.
“I called (a producer). He was saying even if we didn’t have the scare of this second storm Rita, it’s one of the things, all the stats that they have, all the other factors are thrown away right now with these unpredictable events,” Mr. Jhajj said. “If it doesn’t get any worse, that will be the thing to look for,” he said.
Mr. Jhajj also said his company sells propane at very close to the mainland price. In Terrace right now for example, it’s selling for 69.9-cents a litre, just 4-cents less than here. He says a larger-capacity barge the company is now using is helping keep freight costs from spiraling. “We are trying the best we can,” Mr. Jhajj said.
If you think you can avoid any increase by heating with wood, think again. It’s up as well, 15-percent from one supplier in Queen Charlotte. He didn’t want his name in the newspaper, but he told us he was selling 2/3 of a cord for $100 last year, while now the price is $115. That’s an increase of 15-percent.
“It costs me to do a trip to Tlell 40 bucks in gas alone. (It’s the) busiest year ever, because of the price of oil, for one thing,” he said.
Cut it yourself? That’s an option, but don’t forget your gas for both the truck and the chainsaw are now sky-high compared to a year ago, so your end cost will be higher as well.
Only people who heat their homes with electricity will escape rising prices over the winter, but possibly not much longer.
BC Hydro spokesperson Cam MacAlpine told the Observer that Hydro has no plans for a rate increase, and even if it wanted one, the earliest it could take effect is April 1. That’s because it has to apply for an increase, and cannot do so until March 1.
“As far as whether there is going to be a rate increase (then), we don’t know yet,” Mr. MacAlpine said.
Hydro electricity costs 6.05-cents for the first 3000 kilowatt/hours each year, Mr. MacAlpine said, the same as elsewhere in the province. However, islanders pay more- 10.39-cents per kilowatt/hour if they go over that limit.
Aside from a stable price for electricity at least until spring, there’s only one other piece of good news in all this: the Farmers’ Almanac is predicting a mild, wet winter. So if-and it’s a big if- that’s correct and we’re lucky, maybe higher heating fuel costs will be offset by less use. Maybe.

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