Driven by rising oil prices, Vermonters burn more wood

brown firewood
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Eleanor Lowen, Community News Service

According to the Vermont Department of Public Service, the price of heating oil has risen 25.1% between February and March. Many Vermonters are burning wood to supplement their heating because wood is cheaper. The heating season is almost over, so customers will be able to escape the worst effects of the price spike. However, if the high prices continue into the next season, they will be affected. 

Other types of heating fuel are rising in price, too. “Fuel prices in general in the past month have gone up about 20%,” said Matt Cota, the Executive Director of the Vermont Fuel Dealers Association. He remembered an “old Vermont witticism” about how to tell how high the heating oil prices are. “You can tell just by driving around and looking at how high are the wood stacks.”

Firewood and wood pellet sellers are seeing a higher demand. “We’ve had more calls this time of year this year than we did last year for firewood because of the cost of fuel being so high,” said Brittnee Dwyer earlier this month. Dwyer is one of the owners of Tony Dwyer Logging and Firewood, LLC, which is located outside of St. Johnsbury. 

“People with multiple sources of heat are leaning more towards their pellets. There’s more stability in that pricing, that’s not being affected by world events,” said Peggy Clay, a customer service representative at Bourne’s Energy. Bourne’s Energy sells various types of heating fuel from several locations in northern Vermont. “We’re definitely encouraging people to look at pellets as more of primary versus secondary for those that have multiple sources,” she added.

The heating season is almost over, so Vermonters will not be impacted by high heating prices for much longer. Some Vermonters have even been able to avoid the rising costs entirely because they bought their winter fuel in the previous summer. These people “aren’t really experiencing these rising heating costs because they prepaid for their fuel,” said Matt Cota. 

High oil prices bring economic pain for oil sellers, too, not just customers. “The average retail fuel company in Vermont has just 12 employees. The name on the side of the truck is usually the person driving the truck. These are very small companies that don’t have access to cash reserves,” said Matt Cota. He explained that when prices are high, customers take longer to pay the oil companies for oil they have delivered. Since the small companies do not have access to cash reserves, they depend on revenue flowing in to repay loans that they took out to buy oil wholesale. 

“The higher the cost per gallon of these fuels, has a very negative impact on our local regional economy. It also has a really negative impact on the retailers. The higher the cost, the harder it is for them to provide that service,” said Matt Cota.

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4 replies »

    • The climate control folks ignore the down side to burning wood. Wood is harvested using fossil fuel equipment to cut, split and transport. How many house fires are caused by burning wood as opposed to oil heat? How about the smoke from wood stoves settling in populated valleys on calm nights? Consider that the increasing cost to harvest wood along with the increased demand will increase the cost to buy wood.

  1. This virtue-signaling legislature would love to get their hooks into regulating wood fuel, but they fear driving it underground into the cash economy. Wood is RENEWABLE on a 30-40 year cycle. There is no more petroleum necessary to gather and deliver it as a heating fuel than with propane, oil or electricity. It provides a living for local people, which is not so much the case with petroleum or electric heating. It provides quality exercise for the homeowner who splits, stacks and carries this fuel. Vermont’s ample forested land provides plenty of remediation capacity for the carbon emitted. According to most people, wood smoke smells nice. The resulting stove ashes are excellent garden fertilizer. If biomass like cannabis is legal to burn and emit carbon for recreational purposes then why not wood for essential heating? Anyone who reasons that wood heating is some kind of threat to the planet is an idiot, like the neurotic individuals who are seen daily on the roads of Vermont in their car, by themselves, with the windows rolled up, wearing a mask. I am a firm but practical believer in human-caused climate change, and the necessity for mitigating it. Those on the more neurotic, less objective and practical side of that debate will take a stand against any use of energy that extends beyond shivering in the dark.

  2. Burns my ass I’ll tell you that! $935.00 last home heating oil delivery. A senior citizen on, a fixed income.

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