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New York, New England ration heating oil even before peak winter

New York, New England ration heating oil even before peak winter

The US Northeast is so short on heating oil that the fuel used to power home furnaces is being rationed even before the start of winter.

Some wholesalers in Connecticut are putting retailers on allocation, meaning they can only get a limited amount of fuel based on availability, according to Chris Herb, president of the Connecticut Energy Marketers Association, which represents around 600 family-owned retailers in the state. These retailers must in turn ration their customers.

The measure, designed to prevent panic buying, highlights the extreme fuel tightness across the New York Harbor and New England regions that has attracted the attention of the White House. National Economic Council Director Brian Deese told Bloomberg Television earlier this week that diesel inventories are “unacceptably low” and “all options are on the table” to bulk up supply and cut costs to consumers. In New England, where more people burn diesel — the same product as heating oil — to warm their homes than anywhere else in the country, stockpiles are a third of typical levels for this time of year, government data show.

A main hurdle to replenishing regional fuel supplies has been a steep, sustained backwardation in the diesel market. Backwardation happens when prompt deliveries are priced at a premium over deliveries in the future, which in effect causes product to lose value over time. “There’s just no incentive to store large amount of product,” said Michael Ferrante, president of the Massachusetts Energy Marketers Association

In addition to the scarcity, there’s also the cost. Wholesale heating oil in New York Harbor averaged $4.09 a gallon on Thursday, compared with $2.46 at the same time a year ago, according to data from price reporting agency Argus Media…

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