Friday, October 28, 2005

Tales From the Northeast

The following was snipped out of a LTTE in a recent edition of the Times Union, the newspaper of record in Albany, the capitol city of New York State:

This past May, I totaled up our first year's home heating oil usage. Between September 2004 and May, we purchased 2,400 gallons of home heating oil at a total cost of almost $5,800. We saw the price of our heating oil go up from $1.549 to $1.959 at our last fill-up.

The woman goes on to write that she kept her thermostat between 60 and 68 degrees all winter, and she "bundled up" a lot. Double socks and fleece on all the time.

Fleece. How romantic. Like... winter camping trips.

During the really hot summer months here in the Valley our cooling bills, as reflected in our electricity usage, top out at about $180 monthly. We bought a more efficient refridgerator so this past summer our usage was actually down a little from the summer before. But even at that maximal rate (the cost of which is sure to increase, perhaps dramatically, per kilowatt-hours,) our total energy bills would "only" be $2160 for the year, and in reality it's probably a good bit under $2000.

We are both frugal and lucky, I know. I do the laundry at night.

And if we had to cut back on energy use even more, we wouldn't freeze. Sweat some, yes, hypothermia, no.

Comparisons can be interesting.

Thursday, ExxonMobil became the most stark example yet of how much big oil companies benefited from the huge run-up in oil prices during the third quarter even as two major hurricanes ripped through the industry's Gulf Coast infrastructure. Exxon reported:

Net income up 75 percent to $9.92 billion. That is the most a U.S. company has earned from operations in a three-month period and greater than the annual gross domestic product of entire nations including Cameroon and Zimbabwe.

Snipped from the Free Press from Burlington, Vermont, another pretty cold place in the winter.

They'll be doing some complaining about their heating bills too, as soon as their electricity is restored after their recent big storm. No electricity, no whining e-mails to editors.

When we lived up that aways we heated our home mostly with wood, with electricity back-up. Of course, if we were away for a few days and the woodstove smoldered out, and the electricity had failed, I suppose in that kind of situation the parakeets would not have done well.

Five cords of wood cost $165 then, ($33 per cord) and we went through about twice that in a typical winter, which begins in late August there. Sheesh. No kidding, though.

Some years, in the spring before the thaw, I'd stack up 15 cords if we had scant little left over. A friend of mine who still gets wood from the same guy up there now pays $55 per cord, or $275 for a 5-cord truckload. That's still a lot cheaper than what the Albany letter-writer will pay to stay warm this year.

Small communities tucked deeply away in thick forests will somehow manage to stay warm. I guess. But there's a tipping point to the number of trees a community can sacrifice to the Great Buddha of Being Warm in The House. Call that theory the "Peak Cordwood" effect curve.

The Albany woman concludes with:

This year, we are cutting back our estimated heating oil usage by 400 gallons and will be keeping our thermostats set at a base of 50 degrees. We are buying three cords of wood and will be using our fireplace to heat the first floor, and electric space heaters to warm our bedrooms at night.

Fireplaces are notoriously wasteful of good heat. I would recommend that they buy a fireplace woodstove insert with all the money they are going to save by freezing their butts off this winter.

Yeah. Right on.

We will start to see the stories trickle out soon. Homes demolished by chimney fires. Frozen old maids dead alone in their rural farmhouses. Children sick from the cold. Unhappy chilly homeowners like the woman above.

But hey, profits are up.


dorsano said...

ExxonMobile should be able to upgrade the benefit package for its employees - maybe contribute more to their 401K's, reduce the cost to employees of health care coverage, improve the dental package, provide cheaper parking closer to work and give them all a raise

and then those big earnings will eventually trickle back down to the rest of us.

MEC said...

A friend who lives in Illinois told me today that her husband's employer, a manufacturer, is going to cut energy costs by turning the thermostat in the machine shop down to THIRTY-TWO DEGREES. That's right. The machinists will be expected to use the equipment with hands numbed by cold. Imagine the possibilities.

DRP said...

We need to move to local clean and renewable energy to get away from big energy corp. greed.

SassyNurse said...

I agree that we as a nation need to look towards living a life using renewable energies and changing our lifestyles to support it. We can complain all we want about greed, but until we demand changes by putting our money where our mouths are it will not change. We cannot really complain when were driving Hummers to the grocery store. (not me of course, but I know a few lol)

Mr. Mack said...

Part of me is feeling self-righteously smug over this. When I built my home, I considered heating and cooling bills, and scaled down square footage, and went to dual fuel appliances and a coal/wood stove, supplemented by propane gas during the worst of Winter. I looked around at all the Mcmansions being built, and told my wife that all those huge homes with the big-ass cars in driveways(always adorned with a W sticker) would wish they had built smaller places, once utility costs soar. Heating a 5000 sq ft home is the problem, building it is not with all the "cheap" money being offered...