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The US Northeast is hurtling toward a winter heating crisis

The US Northeast is hurtling toward a winter heating crisis

Linda and her husband, Jeff Grossman, has been hit hard by the cost of home heating oil. She'll probably end up spending $3,200 this winter for oil, about 60 percent more than last winter.
Linda and her husband, Jeff Grossman, has been hit hard by the cost of home heating oil. She’ll probably end up spending $3,200 this winter for oil, about 60 percent more than last winter.MATTHEW J. LEE/GLOBE STAFF

In the most densely populated corner of the US, temperatures are about to drop after a stretch of unusually warm weather. And the signs of a winter crisis are already multiplying.

Heating oil delivered to New York is the priciest ever. Retailers in Connecticut are rationing it to prevent panic buying. New England’s stockpiles of diesel and heating oil — the same product, taxed differently — are a third of normal levels. Natural gas inventories are also below average. A Massachusetts-based utility is imploring President Joe Biden to prepare emergency measures to prevent a gas shortage.

Add some cold to the mix, and in the best-case scenario, Northeast consumers will shoulder the highest energy bills in decades this winter. The Biden administration, under pressure to tame prices ahead of the midterm elections, is considering ways to stash more diesel and gasoline in New England. In the worst-case scenario, a cluster of states with a combined economy bigger than Japan’s will run out of fuel to keep the lights on and heat homes and businesses.

“It’s going to be pretty bad,” said Marcus McGregor, head of commodities research at Conning Inc. “Diesel, heating oil and natural gas prices are through the roof. When you’re on a fixed salary, how does it impact your overall budget? It has to be bad.”

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