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Lawmakers push for county co-op for heating oil

As temperatures drop and home heating costs rise, Albany County Comptroller Michael Conners is renewing his push to help county home owners control costs.

Conners joined several county legislators on Monday, Nov. 19, in pushing for a county co-op for home heating oil. Conners first pitched the idea last year. The concept mirrors a 20-county co-op in western New York that has helped keep costs to a minimum there.

Conners is pushing his idea a bit harder this winter as home heating fuel costs have increased by more than 50 cents a gallon, bringing the fuel to more than $3 per gallon locally.

I was pretty surprised by the price last year between Nov. 1, 2006, and now, said Conners. "The reality is the system is being manipulated. Even the industry is saying this, that this thing is being whipsawed by the (oil) speculators in the market."

He has come down hard on oil companies and the New York Mercantile Exchange (NYMEX) for making a quick buck at the public's expense.

Conners is also pitching a plan to build local ethanol production plants to bring in local production and consumption of the cleaner burning fuel. The strategy is to ultimately take on local initiatives, for lack of effective state, federal and industry initiatives, to lower carbon emissions and rein in rising fuel costs.

First things first, a countywide co-op would offer reduced prices through bulk purchasing power, and participants would often see prices per gallon much less than typical Capital District prices, said Conners. The region has some of the highest home heating fuel costs in the state. The math doesn't add up, he said. In all reality, home heating oil should cost more in western portions of the state where delivery routes are typically longer and destinations spread further apart. Not to mention a longer winter, he said.

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