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By Robert Rapier on Oct 15, 2012 with 57 responses

The Potential for a Heating Oil Crisis


The Energy Information Administration (EIA) last week reported on a potential crisis for heating oil customers in the Northeast part of the United States. In This Week in Petroleum (TWIP), the EIA reported:

For the week ending October 5, distillate inventories in the U.S. Northeast (PADDs 1A and 1B) were 28.3 million barrels, about 21.5 million barrels (43 percent) below their five-year average level (Figure 1). Distillate inventories have historically been used to meet normal winter heating demand but are also an important source of supply when demand surges as a result of unexpected or extreme cold spells. The low distillate inventories could contribute to heating oil price volatility this winter. In addition, outages at several major refineries, notably Petroleos de Venezuela’s Amuay Refinery, Shell Oil’s Pernis Refinery in the Netherlands, and Irving Oil’s Saint John Refinery in Canada, have added to the fundamental market pressures in the Atlantic Basin.

The figure below indicates a potential for very high heating oil prices if this winter is particularly cold:

As shown in the figure, distillate inventories this year are far below historical levels as we head toward winter. (Although a portion of the reason is due to a shift toward natural gas for heating). Also noted in the report was that this year New York is requiring for the first time that the sulfur content of home heating oil be no more than 15 parts per million (ppm), which is equivalent to the specification for ultra-low sulfur diesel fuel (ULSD). This will likely increase the cost of ULSD for consumers.

If the winter is mild, then the lower inventories may turn out to be a nonissue. But right now they have the potential to turn into a big problem for consumers in the event of a cold winter. My advice to readers in this area would be to play it safe and top off those tanks. Right now home heating oil for January delivery is only about four cents cheaper per gallon than for November delivery, but waiting entails significant risk of spiking prices given the inventory picture.

Link to Original Article: The Potential for a Heating Oil Crisis

By Robert Rapier

  1. By Walter Sobchak on October 15, 2012 at 12:29 pm

    Funny thing how the most “progressive” areas of the US, like the northeast and California keeping having such bad luck.

    The dominant intellectual force in the Northeast, the NYTimes Company, publisher of the NYTimes and the Boston Globe, has longed backed campaigns to shut down oil and gas drilling and nuclear power plants.

    The energy problems that the northeast and California are having are self-inflicted. I have no sympathy for them, and I oppose any Federal action to relieve them of the consequences of their stupidity.

    • By Justin on October 15, 2012 at 4:29 pm

      Wishing suffering on people because you disagree with them politically is stupid.

      By the way the most “conservative” area of the US, the deep south, is the poorest. Do you have no sympahty for them because their economic woes are “self-inflicted?” through their economic policies?

      • By Walter Sobchak on October 15, 2012 at 4:34 pm

        Let them freeze in the dark.

      • By Walter Sobchak on October 15, 2012 at 6:08 pm

        The richest counties in the US are in DC metro. That is just your taxpayer dollars at work. New York lives off the finance business.

        The northeast is rich because they are stealing from the rest of the country. Let them freeze in the dark.

        • By Justin on October 17, 2012 at 1:25 pm

          hahahahahaha. stealing what? Tax dollars. Please, red states generally take more federal money then they pay in.

          That being said, I hope the north east does switch to nat gas or some alternative. It’s just a waste of oil.

          • By Walter Sobchak on October 17, 2012 at 11:21 pm

            Mother Jones? There is a fountain of objective knowledge.


            • By Justin on October 18, 2012 at 9:55 am

              Sorry it’s not Fox News or the National Review.

            • By Walter Sobchak on October 18, 2012 at 5:34 pm

              Nor is it, or St. Louis Fed.

        • By OD on October 21, 2012 at 1:17 pm

          Wow, what a sad little man you are walter! You realize the poor and elderly will be hit hardest by this, regardless of party affiliation, right?

          Also, Justin is exactly right. Red states take in far more tax dollars than they generate. You should really educate yourself. There is no excuse for remaining ignorant! 


  2. By Ben on October 15, 2012 at 1:08 pm

    I see significant political pressure impacting winter fuel pricing after the elections given  the need for Northeast/Midwest legislators’ votes on urgent fiscal measures  demanding action notwithstanding who wins in November.   Could this lead to a post-election release from the SPR?  Perhaps, and the likelihood increases with any indications that the fledgling recovery will move from the  current sputter to an outright stall.  QE3 may in the eyes of the monetary authority be a necessity, nut it alone is incapable of delivering the horsepower needed to restore sustained increases in household incomes and accompanying job growth.   Only the prospects are markedly higher capital investment, growth in output to support increases in export earnings and practical signs of consumer confidence will keep the ball rolling.  

    Any hope of definitive resolution to the European debt crisis has faded, as the reality of systemic deleveraging continues to rumble throughout the Eurozone.   It is very much with a jaundiced eye that several of the leading OPEC nations continue to view with alarm prospects of a flagging global economy and resulting implications for near-to-intermediate-term energy demand.   The risk here remains to the downside in light of understandable concerns about the fiscal profligacy of major industrialized economies.    As a mentor correctly pointed out three decades ago,  Jacques Rueff’s observations about the inherent predisposition of economic powers possessing an ability to print at their own discretion inevitably leads to a particular result: debasement.   Acknowledged or not, we are witnessing the ongoing “Monetary Sin of the West.”    Admittedly, it is neither pretty nor exemplary.   We have precious little time to make some fundamental adjustments in our policy priorities and civic attitudes.

    I do remain hopeful though optimism at this point might be a bit of a stretch. 



  3. By mac on October 15, 2012 at 5:40 pm

    Thank you Ben.

    You at least understand that the present profligate Keynesian inspired spending orgy of the West is the culprit.

    On a more prosaic level, my Nat Gas bill here in Texas, last month was $14.54

    Perhaps the Northeast should consider heating with nat gas instead of bunker crude.

    My home has a natural gas fired water heater, natural gas heating and a nat gas stove in the kitchen. To be truthful, my monthly nat gas bill usually runs about 40-45 bucks a month. We get a yearly rebate about this time of year from the nat gas company and that explains the bill for only $ 14 dollars.

    Nevertheless, if your girl friend (bunker crude) won’t give you any satisfaction, then switch partners.

  4. By mac on October 15, 2012 at 6:45 pm




    “The American Republic will endure until the day Congress discovers that it can bribe the public with the public’s money.”
    Alexis de Tocqueville
    I only wish an American had said this instead of a Frenchman, but then again the French gave us the Statue of Liberty, bless their  Socialist Hearts.

  5. By mac on October 15, 2012 at 6:54 pm

    Nat Gas is too cheap….we can make more money selling refined oil.  So say the Oil Companies.

    Yes, sir, you are absolutely correct…

  6. By mac on October 15, 2012 at 7:19 pm

    I remember when I was a kid… the oil man coming around and filling our tank.

    Yup, oil really works, and produces life-sustaining BTUs.

    But, then so do other things…..


    Let the people in the Northeast freeze to death in the dark  ?  Come on man…. get real !!!!

    There is no need for our friends in the Northeast to freeze to death in mid-winter without heat or  lights…

    We will simply borrow more money (at interest) from China for some U.S. Govt. subsidized  bunker crude purchases for the Northeast.

    Obviously, there is no problem.

    • By Walter Sobchak on October 16, 2012 at 1:26 am

      Wouldn’t it be cheaper for them to burn the greenbacks?

  7. By Ed Reid on October 16, 2012 at 8:32 am

    The US Northeast is the “end of the line” as far as natural gas is concerned. Pipeline capacity is limited; and, many distribution systems are old and limited to very low pressure operation. The cost of adding new customers is higher than the US average.

    Residential and small commercial oil heating systems use #2 fuel oil (a distillate), not “bunker crud” or even crude oil. Distillates are one component of the refinery product stream. Inventories are likely low because gasoline consumption has been reduced by the soft economy, this reducing total refinery output.

    As Robert indicated above, supplies are adequate for a normal winter. However, an extremely cold winter could cause significant supply disruptions, which could easily be aggravated by snow  and ice hampering local deliveries.

  8. By Ben on October 16, 2012 at 10:02 am


    Thanks for your acknowledgment.  I must say that I am a big fan of Tocqueville and that largely results from interest promoted by an ”encourager” of  my youth, Prof.  Sheldon S. Wolin, (emeritus at Princeton).    I’m not sure, however, the quote is actually attributable to the French aristocrat-scholar.  Although it remains a point of contention, the quotation appears to be more readily attributable to Alexander Fraser Tytler, 18th century professor of Greek and Roman Antiquities at the U. of Edinburgh (and one of my favorites–though I must admit very much to  Scottish bias:)   Oh, for the further edification of this blog’s stand-up author, that attribution was made courtesy of The Daily Oklahoman (circa Dec. 1951).

    As for the addvantages of NG and the sensibilities of the Northeast embracing that particular form of energy, I can only say “amen” and point to the prospects of achieving just that with the pending expansion of gas production capacity in Maritime Canada.  Several attempts to develop LNG on the Maine side of the border in recent years were rebuffed by environmental/safety objections that were discreetly (and unsurprisingly) supported by interests in New Brunswick–no names here, of course:)  A precipitous decline  NG prices certainly didn’t help the cause.   Expansion of the Maritime Pipeline through Maine and into the Boston market continues even as there are plans to reverse the flow from the Portland to Montreal oil pipeline to accommodate oil sands supplies from Western Canada.   On a more positive note for the Northeast, and arguably Northern New England in particular, ready access to a number of accessible renewable energy options, to include:  wind, tidal and biomass-based supplies will bode well for the region in the not too distant future.   The once iconic forestry industry of the Maine Woods is giving way to a new era of greener, cleaner commerce.  That probably isn’t an unwelcome development in a place where, as my old LL Bean boot-wearing buddies would say, “we have six months of winter and six months of rough sledding”:)      

    Walter, my friends say they have a postal box available for you to send along some Greenbacks for the wood stove! 





    • By Walter Sobchak on October 17, 2012 at 11:37 pm

      “On a more positive note for the Northeast, and arguably Northern New England in particular, ready access to a number of accessible renewable energy options, to include:  wind, tidal and biomass-based supplies will bode well for the region in the not too distant future.”

      Wind? Isn’t the Kennedy family still trying to kill the Nantucket Sound wind project?

      Tidal? FDR liked to talk about harnessing the power of the tides in the Bay of Fundy, but, 1) it is in Canada, and I will wager they don’t think they owe the US any energy favors right now (Keystone Pipeline), and, 2) nobody has ever built one that can survive a probable range of weather, wind, ice, etc.

      biomass? Well, if bull$#;+ could be burned, they wouldn’t have a problem, would they? But, the NE has very little good cropland, and, as our host has repeatedly said cellulosic ethanol is not viable.

      Northeasterners better learn to be nice to people.




    • By Walter Sobchak on October 17, 2012 at 11:41 pm

      “Walter, my friends say they have a postal box available for you to send along some Greenbacks for the wood stove!’

      I know, it belongs to the IRS. I send them a big check 4 times a year. Believe me, I do not do it out of the goodness of my heart.

  9. By mac on October 16, 2012 at 2:57 pm

    Okay Ben,

    Well, there is at least one witty quote that Mark Twain popularized that actually belongs to Guy de Maupassant, the French author.  Sam Clemens also “nicked” a few other things. And so it goes – in the who said what first game.

    Ed Reid mentioned the decrepit and inadequate natural gas pipeline infrastructure in the Northeast.  I’m sure he’s probably correct.  Many of the underground water supply and sewer systems in the Northeast are also quite old as are the rotting telph0ne poles that carry electricity, telephone and cable.  

    Nevertheless, there is the Marcellus Shale that extends through PA into New York State. The State of New York has, of course,  been warring against “fracking” and the development of these nat gas deposits.

    Perhaps Sobchak is right,  Let them freeze to death in the dark.

    Sobchak is certainly on target when he says that much of the supposed wealth and prosperity of DC. and the rest of the Northeast corridor is purloined (stolen) from the rest of the U.S.  “The power to tax is the power to oppress”

    According to the Constitution, the original 13 colonies have 26 U.S. Senators, more than enough votes to insure that a rebellious House of Representatives (representing the rest of   America) will never get anything passed contrary to the desires of Northeastern political power brokers and Wall Street.

    And, then we have Delaware…  My goodness, there are ranches here in Texas that are bigger than the State of Delaware.


    On a more mundane and pragmatic level, I guess that the citizens of the Northeast will just have to buy some electric space heaters for this winter. 

    That’s what happens when you depend on Oil Alone.





  10. By mac on October 16, 2012 at 3:01 pm

    Yes, it is indeed #2 fuel oil and not bunker crude. Sorry for the typographical transgression.

  11. By mac on October 16, 2012 at 4:22 pm

    Darn it Sobchack,

    The more I think about it, the more I think you may be right.

    Population of Texas                25  million plus

    Population of California        37  million plus

    Total:                                        62  million plus


    Population of Delaware        1,o51,302

    Pop. of Rhode Island               907,135

    Total:                                        1,958,473   (less than 2 million)


    Number of U.S. Senators from Texas and California  ?   —– 4 (four)

    Number of U.S. Senators from Delaware and R.I. ?         —– 4 (four)


    As Shakespeare once said:  “There is something rotten in Denmark.”

  12. By Jim Takchess on October 16, 2012 at 8:15 pm

    Here in New Hampshire, I’m taking a bite out of oil heat cost  by using a pellet stove…… Enjoyable, renewable, and cleaner than traditional wood.


    • By notKit P on October 17, 2012 at 10:18 am

      Turns out that ‘traditional’ biomass is the dirtieset and most dangerous way to heat.  Make sure you clean your chimnney often.  I love heating with a wood stove but again if too many do it air quality becomes dangerous.  It takes about 7 acres of land to sustainably heat a house.

      The governor of Conneticut said that about 200,000 houses heated with oil are less than 150 feet from a gas main.  That sounds like low hanging fruit to save oil.


      • By takchess on October 18, 2012 at 7:47 am

        Wood Pellets are a lot more efficient than a traditional wood stoves and do not have the particulate and emission  problems. They can be vented to the outdoors with a short length of stove pipe.They don’t need a full stack.

        I’d argue it is substainable.

        I agree one needs to be damn careful with traditional wood and that part along with the poor air quality doesn’t appeal to me.


        • By notKit P on October 18, 2012 at 12:22 pm

          You are burning wood so of course there are ’particulate and emission  problems’.  PAH are very nasty stuff.

          Do not get me wrong, heating with wood is a great way to reduce oil use but if a million homes in angiven  area heat with wood, then killer smogs will result least we forget the good old days.

  13. By Ben on October 17, 2012 at 3:37 pm


    Ouch!  One assumes from your commentary that you take exception with the work of the Framers and, more specifically, with accommodations involving the “Great Compromise” of July 16, 1787 following a deadlock that arose after defeat of the New Jersey Plan.   Interestingly, the actual vote (5 to 4) on the decision to accept equal representation of membership by states in the US Senate resulted from a divided vote within the Massachusetts delegation (nullifying their vote) and the absence of a quorum in the New York delegtion (two the three members having returned to NY).   The handiwork of the Framers reflected a principle that has been the source of pride and derision (both then and more recently) as it aimed to afford the states with “the smallest voices a forum in which they may be heard in defence of their legitimate interests.”   For two-and-a-quarter centuries those “interests” have found refuge in what has often been described as “the world’s most deliberative bodies.”  Apart from that, a more recent legislative history of the Senate continues to confirm its institutional status as sort of a political circuit-breaker.  To wit, here’s an observation about the exertions of the Framers from a well-schooled source of the late 19th century:

    ” It is indispensable that besides the House of Representatives which runs on all four with popular sentiment, we should have a body that like the Senate which may refuse to run with it at all when it seems wrong—a body which has time and security enough to keep its head, if only now and then and but for a little while, till other people have had time to think.  The Senate is fitted to do deliberately and well the revising which is its proper function, because its position as a representative of state sovereignty is one of eminent dignity, securing for it ready and sincere respect, and because popular demands, ere they reach it with definitie and authoritative suggestion, are diluted by passage throught the feelings and conclusions of the state legislatures, which are the Senate’s only immediate constituents.”    

    -  Woodrow Wilson, PhD, in his book, Congressional Government (1885)

    I might add here the observation of James Madison in offering some additional context for how we might understand the dynamics surrounding the Great Compromise between the states;

    “The great divsion of interests among the states was not so much between large and small but between sectional interests…” (north and south) and “principally from the effects of having or not having slaves.”   These dynamics resulted in series of compromises moving from general principles to much finer details of governance that found their way into the final product, the US Constitution.  

    One hopes that the handiwork of the Founders is respected for what it has safeguarded through the ages.  It is, admittedly, an imperfect piece of statecraft.  Yet, in conceding the point, I’m reminded of the old line from Winston Churchill who volunteered “….. democracy is the worst form of government except all those other forms that have been tried from time to time.”  

    So, in closing, may I cite Ben Franklin in response to an encounter with a lady on the streets of Phildelphia that late summer of ’87; “Well, doctor, what have we got?  A republic or a monarchy?” Dr. Franklin:  “A republic, if you can keep it.”

    Indeed, that remains the challenge to this very hour.   I dare say we’ll need even those hard-headed bums of the Northeast all the way to Atlantic Canada, if we hope to preserve “this last, best hope of mankind.” 

    Thanks for caring enough to keep making the case for reason.











  14. By mac on October 17, 2012 at 5:51 pm

    Ben wrote:

    “The Senate is fitted to do deliberately and well the revising which is its proper function, because its position as a representative of state sovereignty is one of eminent dignity, securing for it ready and sincere respect, and because popular demands, ere they reach it with definitie and authoritative suggestion, are diluted by passage throught the feelings and conclusions of the state legislatures, which are the Senate’s only immediate constituents.”    

    -  Woodrow Wilson, PhD, in his book, Congressional Government (1885)



    I assume that Wilson is referring to the fact that U.S. Senators were formerly appointed to Congress by State Legislators prior to the enactment of the 17 th Amendment in 1913,  since Wilson’s book was published in 1885.


    From 1789 to 1913, when the Seventeenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution was ratified, senators were elected by state legislatures. Beginning with the 1914 general election, all U.S. senators have been chosen by direct popular election. The Seventeenth Amendment also provided for the appointment of senators to fill vacancies.


    Obviously, the early framers wanted to get away from the system of Monarchy, but also the idea of “dictatorship by the proletariat” as Marx much later proposed.  Indeed, it was Democracy that killed Socrates.

    Pure Democracy killed Socrates when the ancient Greeks cast their ostraicavoted him out of existence and the man was forced to drink Hemlock and died at the hands of his fellow countrymen.

    Imagine that ……………….. Socrates,  a seminal thinker in the history of the West, pupil of Plato and mentor to Alexander the Great.


    No, I don’t think pure Populism or pure Democracy work very well, and that is of course why Franklin said, “We have given you a Republic, if you can keep it.”

    The problem is that many of the “rights reserved to the states” in the Constitution have been systematically usurped by an ever growing, meddlesome  and powerful Federal Bureaucracy. While the division of powers within the Federal Government (Judicial, Legislative and Executive branches) may. even to this day, serve to prevent excesses by any group or interests, the brutal truth is that the Federal Government ever since FDR, has been very busy systematically dismantling State prerogatives and the power of individual states to enact legislation according to local circumstances and needs, Rights presumably guaranteed by the Constitution itself.

    The power of the Feds has grown.  The power of State governments has diminished.




  15. By mac on October 17, 2012 at 8:38 pm

    We have come a long way since the late 19 th century when rail-road robber barons, coal companies and up and coming oil industry could influence state legisltuthe of the rail-road era.

    Now, instead of peddling influence  through state legislatures to ppoint favorable Senators in Washington,  those same interests can simply pimp their influence to whatever  party that wins by affecting the Congressional agenda through lobbying.

    No need to control the State Legislature any more TO ENSURE sympathetic candidates, laws and perks (as was the case prior to the passage of the 17th Amendment)

    The fossil fuel lobby strategy has changed since 1913. They simply no longer descend upon  state legislatures, but instead swarm Congress itself like an army of locusts, to protect theur corporate interests, hard won special privileges and undeserved subsidies.

    There are 7 (seven) legally registered oil lobbyists for each and every individual Congressman in the U.S. Senate and House.

    And these are just the figures for official and legally registered oil lobbyists.



  16. By mac on October 17, 2012 at 9:16 pm

    There are 7 (seven) legally registered oil lobbyists for each and every individual Congressman in the U.S. Senate and House.

    And these are just the figures for official and legally registered oil lobbyists.

     A fuel oil “crisis” in the northeast ?

    Cry me a river…………. Ever hear of Nat Gas ?  Wood pellet stoves ? Propane space heaters ? Electric space heaters ?

    Maybe, the guy who said “Let them freeze to death in the dark” has it right.

    When I was stationed in Mass., about 30 miles west of Boston, the Army base where I was located was heated with coal.

    I used to hate “coal detail” and shoveling coal in 8 hour shifts.

    Lots of anthracite up there.  In fact, we import anthracite from the Northeast to Texas to mix with the native bituminous coal to fire our coal fired electric generating plants.

    Let the people of the Northeast freeze to death in the dark ?

    Wow, that sounds uncharitable, but on the other hand, that might be exactly what it takes to deliver them from their sole dependence on oil.

    • By Walter Sobchak on October 17, 2012 at 11:54 pm

      “that might be exactly what it takes to deliver them from their sole dependence on oil.”

      It is not their dependence on oil that rankles. It is their arrogant refusal to do anything but stick their hands out and whine.

      They could frack the Marcellus shale in NY. But the NY politicos and media are opposed to that.

      They have several nuclear plants that the politicians and media are always trying to shut down.

      They won’t allow an import terminal for LNG.

      Wind turbines? Not near the Kennedy house, you will spoil the view.

      What traps them is not a mineral, it is their own attitude. Quiet refection in the dark and cold will change their attitude. Or, not, but no one can do it for them.





      • By TimC on October 18, 2012 at 11:03 am

        “It is not their dependence on oil that rankles. It is their arrogant refusal to do anything but stick their hands out and whine.”

        Exactly, Walter.  And that applies not only to the Northeast and heating oil.  A large chunk of the US population (about 47%) has become like a nest full of hatchlings, whose only response to any hardship is to face Washington, open their beaks wide, and start squawking. 

  17. By mac on October 18, 2012 at 3:06 am

    We will NOT DECREASE our dependence on oil says the Northeast

    We will NOT seek alternatives……

    As they also cry with great passion “We will  freeze to death and die in the dark”

    I might say —— a fitting. end to their (our) national obsession with oil.

    Have Mercy on us here in the Northeast say the residents of New England and the mid Atlantic States.

    My, my, my……

    Well, I gladly extend the hand of mercy from a compassionate and loving and adoring American Public to the Original Thirteen. 

    It’s called Natural Gas.

    (and a number of other fuel alternatives)



  18. By mac on October 18, 2012 at 3:50 am

    Even if we are not particularly Patriotic, we ought to be concerned about the Good Old U.S.A , simply in light of the fact that we live here.

  19. By Ed Reid on October 18, 2012 at 8:27 am

    There certainly are potential solutions to New England’s significant dependence on fuel oil for space and water heating. However, most of them do not have the real potential to resolve a fuel oil shortage this winter.

    For this winter, the greatest hope lies in fervent prayer for a mild winter. The early signs do not look promising.

  20. By ben on October 18, 2012 at 3:57 pm

    Yes, the 17th Amendment.  And to think, they call it “progress.”   Loose construction there, eh:)

    I did some grad research/writing (in the–shhhh, Northeast:) on the Madisonian-Hamiltonian Principles of Federalism where the Federalist Papers served as a handy resource in gleaning from the mind of the Framers (well, at least a few of them).   I’m not unsympathetic to your views on the centralization of power in Washington.   While the States Rights arguments tends to ring a bit hollow for many defenders of the [r]epublican form of govenment, genuine concerns about federal usurpation continues to enjoy a good following among the faithful.  There is much to commend a more balanced approach in meeting the needs of an evolving society/marketplace.   I suspect we’d do well to consider a little more of the old-time religion, as we press ahead with the challnges at hand–be they on the energy front or other issues of pressing concern to the nation. 

    I suppose it is much better to light one candle than curse the darkness. Out of an impulse of esprit de corps, if not Christian charity, we might take up a kerosene (or whale oil) collection for New England and  the Middle States this winter:)  That will help tide them over until some of that Maritime or Pennsylavnia NG comes online.   Hey, we might nominate Walter as chairman while you take up duties as liaison officer to the Sons of Liberty.  An act of patriotism for sure!





  21. By mac on October 19, 2012 at 2:35 pm


    The Founding Fathers realized that the document they had created was flawed and that it might need revision, hence thew amendment process.  And so, we now have the direct election of Senators under the 17th Amendment and the fact that the House of Representatives is so far capped at 435 members under the 14th Amendment.  So far, 27 Amendments to the U.S. Constitution.

    The original, pristine and sacrosanct U.S. Constitution provided that for any additional gain of  35,000 inhabitants any given state would be granted an additional Congressional representative.

    Obviously, this would be an unhandy proposition, so we have opted for proportional representation in the House, presently capped at 435.

    We now stand at 27  U.S. Constitutional Amendments in all.  The early fathers of the Constitution suspected that document they had framed might be flawed and was not the final word.  Hence, they wrote in the Amendment process as part of their Constitution. 

    My goodness, our very  Bill of Rights (the first 10 Amendments was not even included in the the original U.S. Constitution.)


  22. By mac on October 19, 2012 at 3:35 pm

    What does a discussion about the amendment process in the U.S. Constitution have to do with heating oil prices for this winter in the Northeast ???.

    Well, perhaps nothing and at the same time perhaps “everything”

    If you don;t like the Constitution, then change it.  If you don’t want to continue to be a slave to oil, then change it.

    Vote with your feet.  Vote with your pocket book.  My advice to the citizens of the Northeast is to simply go out and buy a couple of relatively inexpensive electric space heaters. 

    Take the money you would normally spend this winter on scarce or non-existent fuel oil and simply buy yourself some electric space heaters.

    But that, is of course, just too simple. 

    So, we must become embroiled in a chicken little, the sky is falling” fuel oil shortage discussion.

    Some say that the northeast fuel oil shortage just proves that “We can never get by without oil”

    Actually, it proves the exact opposite,  and reinforces the notion that we need to get off oil “pronto” and that oil is not the “solution to everything”,  but is actually the problem.


    • By Ed Reid on October 19, 2012 at 6:24 pm


      Many oil heating systems in the US Northeast also use “sidearm” water heaters for domestic water heating. Certainly, using electric space heater would reduce fuel oil consumption to some degree. However, the sidearm water heater is very inefficient when the boiler is not also used for space heating, such as during the summer, or if space heating were done with electric space heaters. 

      There are lots of longer term solutions to the problem, but relatively few “good” short term solutions.

  23. By mac on October 19, 2012 at 7:18 pm

    Ed Reid said : “There are lots of longer term solutions to the problem, but relatively few “good” short term solutions.”

    The short term solution is to buy electric space heaters and window film, but you are right, our  good brethren in the Northeast will not allow this momentary lapse in the Oil Only juggernaut to determine their fate.

    They will simply revert to electricity, propane, etc. until the crisis is passed.

    Business as usual for OIL ONLY …………………

    You got it……………………..

  24. By mac on October 19, 2012 at 7:53 pm

    Sobchak may be right………….

    “Let them freeze to death in the dark”

    If we remain solely dependent on oil, then freezing to death in the dark is certainly an option.


    And as someone else has also contributed:

    “It is not their dependence on oil that rankles. It is their arrogant refusal to do anything but stick their hands out and whine.”

    Exactly, Walter.  And that applies not only to the Northeast and heating oil.  A large chunk of the US population (about 47%) has become like a nest full of hatchlings, whose only response to any hardship is to face Washington, open their beaks wide, and start squawking.”


    Thank you sir…………for that comment.

    Extending subsidies for folks that have heir beaks open wide might also include the Oil Companies ?????

    Ahhhh, well, not exactly on R-Squared.




    • By Ed Reid on October 20, 2012 at 8:34 am

      Most of the oil company “subsidies” are tax treatments which reduce corporate tax liabilities on earnings, or what the Administration calls “tax expenditures”. In most cases, they are the same tax treatments available to other industries, though they might have industry specific names. Eliminate them and prices would rise, but the industry would not go away, unlike the solar and wind industries.

      Arguably the largest single oil (actually energy) industry “subsidy” is the Low Income Heating Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP), which is actually a welfare program. It benefits the energy industry indirectly by reducing uncollectable bills. However, it benefits low income families directly by reducing unheated homes.  Most states prohibit utilities from discontinuing service for non-payment during the winter months; and, LIHEAP reduces utility financial exposure resulting from uncollectable bills. Eliminating LIHEAP would likely result in some real freezing in the dark.

  25. By mac on October 19, 2012 at 8:18 pm

    Let them freeze to death in the dark ?

    That is certainly an uncharitable proposition.

    Nevertheless. let the Northeastern Liberals who supposedly have no use for fossil fuels, freeze to death in the dark………………………..

    If they are too stupid to switch horses, then let them die in their sins and folly.

    “Here in the Northeast we have advanced beyond fossil fuels”

    Uhhhhh,,,,,,,,,,,,, well…………. errrr…………. maybe not exactly…………………..

  26. By Tom G. on October 20, 2012 at 10:50 am

    I thought “Combined Heat and Power” solved this problem.


    • By Ed Reid on October 20, 2012 at 1:17 pm

      Tom G.,

      CHP can increase the overall thermal efficiency of energy usage, primarily through the recovery and reuse of energy which would otherwise be rejected to the atmosphere in the power generation process. However, like most great ideas, it is not a panacea.

      CHP is easiest to adapt in new construction, since all energy end use equipment can be selected to optimize the utilization of the heat rejected by the electric generation process, which is critical to system economics. In larger CHP systems this means using the recovered thermal energy for space heating, space cooling and domestic and/or process water heating. In larger CHP systems, thermal energy may also be used for dehumidification; and, ice storage systems may be used to store excess cooling produced off-peak to meet cooling needs on-peak. Typically, the thermal energy available is more than twice the electric energy available. This tends to increase system installed cost, because of the more complex thermal end use integration.

      Small systems, like those identified in the link, are built around small internal combustion engines. The Marathon engine, for example, can reportedly run up to 4,000 hours (~6 months) on natural gas or propane between service, because both fuels leave relatively little carbon in the lubricating oil. However, for perspective, 4,000 hours in a vehicle application at an average of 30 mph is ~120,000 miles. There is no information on either of the manufacturer sites in your link regarding expected engine life, which obviously has a significant influence on system economics.


      • By Tom G. on October 20, 2012 at 1:53 pm

        Hi Ed:

        Very well written and thoughtful response as usual.  I happen to live in Arizona so don’t live in the colder climates being discussed here but IF I did I would be using some creative ideas to reduce costs.

        1. Would PROBABLY install a ground source heat pump.  While my current air source heat pump is wonderful at saving energy it wouldn’t work at -10 degrees therefor a ground source unit would be needed for folks living on the east coast.  I have relatives living in Minnesota who use ground source heat pumps and they all enjoy significant winter savings.    

        2.  As someone who is retired and loves to tinker with stuff, I would PROBABLY install some type of solar air heating wall or solar roof mounted heating system which I would then use as follows.  I would transfer the free solar heat to a heat pump which would heat water during the day and store some quantity of excess in water to about 105 F.  Then at night I would have the stored heat energy to draw from.  Size of storage system would determine number of cloudy days system would work.   

        Currently my cousin in Minnesota uses a roof mounted solar air heater to heat his 1700 sq. ft. home during the daytime.  It provides all the heat he needs but at night he still relies on oil.    

        These are just a couple of ideas and some will work at some locations but not at others of course but there are always OPTIONS.  One option I haven’t seen discussed is energy efficiency and conservation.  For example, in the winter if you run an electric dryer, you can recover most of the heat and moisture which would normally be vented outside.  I am not so sure about heat recovery from gas dryers but there is probably some form of heat recovery unit for those units as well.  

        So many options, so little time, LOL.  

    • By notKit P on October 20, 2012 at 3:07 pm

      It is always a scam. Always!


      How do I know? If words like ‘free’ and ‘savings’ are being used absent the cost of the equipment then it is a scam.


      How will you know that something is a good idea. When the maintenance technician uses the equipment in his house, that is a good sign. He can get the equipment at cost and service it himself.

      If standard economic analysis show that the payback period is less than the life of the equipment, then it is not scam.


  27. By December 21 2012 on October 21, 2012 at 6:09 am

    This is in part due to the overwhelming success of
    Tim La – Haye and Jerry Jenkins with the Left Behind series.

    Each century is marked with a danger ranking, 10 being
    extremely dangerous and off limits. Many ancient prophecies seem
    to suggest the significance of the date or period in time.

    • By Robert Rapier on October 21, 2012 at 2:56 pm

      I am not sure if this was spam or an actual response to the story, but ironically the day that the world is supposed to end — December 21 — is my birthday. 


  28. By Cheryl on October 21, 2012 at 6:56 am


    What do you think of this story

    • By Robert Rapier on October 21, 2012 at 2:55 pm

      There’s not much in the way of technical problem from going that route, but the energy inputs are always higher than the energy outputs. The laws of thermodynamics doom a project like this unless you can essentially use excess, extremely cheap power to drive the process. You might use excess solar power at the peak of the day, but in general the energy inputs will be prohibitive.


  29. By mac on October 21, 2012 at 4:14 pm

    Not to worry Robert,  about Dec 21st, 2012, your birthday.

    The Mayans had a highly refined and mathematical calender, but they didn’t know everything,

    This is obviously so, because the Mayans , for the most part, no longer exist.

    If they knew “everything”, don’t you suppose they would have figured out a way to survive into the present ?

    Here we go again with another non-existent crisis like the Y2K nonsense in year 2000…….

    • By Ed Reid on October 21, 2012 at 5:25 pm

      Well, we certainly wouldn’t want to let a crisis go to waste. ;-)

  30. By Tom G. on October 21, 2012 at 8:39 pm

    Ah you guys are all wet.  The Mayans were all bikini clad women and they were in abundance today on our  lake, LOL.   It was 89 F today and so pretty on the water.  In another two weeks the bass will start hitting then the real fun begins.

    Lake Havasu City, AZ  

  31. By Ben on October 22, 2012 at 8:11 am

    I would like to file a formal protest here against the posting of Tom G.   Citation of the fact that it was 89 F on Lake Havazu should be disallowed–there are adults reading this blog who might be inappropriately exposed to the realization that the southwest enjoys such advantages over other parts of the country!   In the absence of such responsible censorship on the part of the blog’s publishers, we may need resort to the introduction of legislation in the Congress to impose some appropriate form of taxation, or counter-balancing tariff, to ensure a more level playing field between regions of the nation.   Absent credible action, one can envision wholesale disintermediation of persons and fiscal resources out of the northern states to the southwest.  This would have serious socioeconomic and even political consequences.  Why, much of the south could even end up–perish such a ludicrous thought–Republican!   Wow, thankfully we have the legislative process to intercede and protect us from such developments!  Indeed, we have, in the absence of all else, the Constitutional amendment process:)  God bless the Framers for their foresight!

    Anyone taking bets as to whether RR celebrates his next birthday?





    • By Tom G. on October 22, 2012 at 10:17 am

      OMG I wished I had such a wonderful sense of humor and could express it so well.

      Of course I deliberately did not mention that we can almost fry eggs on the asphalt in Jul, Aug and early September when temps run 100-118 F.  But the fall, winter and spring months are wonderful here.  A light jacket or sweater works fine to eliminate the nighttime chill during Dec, Jan and Feb or  until about 8 AM when the sun comes up and warms the desert.  

      So in the end I think we are pretty much the same except for when we spend our money on either heating or cooling.  Although with the increasing cost of oil I think I might have the edge.  To heat and COOL my all electric home of 1707 sq. ft. on a level pay plan [year around cost] is $105/month.  It is really hard to beat the cost of a Heat Pump when oil is so expensive.

      So set your thermostat to 40 degrees; hook up your Bass boat and head West young man.  The launch ramp at Site 6 is  almost empty and it is FREE to launch.

      Thank you for the excellent posting and the big dose of smiles.  

  32. By Ben on October 22, 2012 at 11:14 am

    Tom G

    The debt is very much mine to you, sir.  Thanks for an invocation of the most powerful influence on behavior modification of all (save, peahps, for the right snuggling); the obvious benefits of doing things differently prodded by an exceedingly practical example.   If  the onerous responsibilities of proposing my suggested legislative remedies doesn’t keep me in the national capital Region, I maye find my way out to that boat launch (and fish lunch) at Site 6.   Free having awalys proven a meaningful incentive structure!:)

    Warmly (but not for much longer:)





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