To the editor: Cold winter takes its toll on families needing heating fuel

This is a tough winter for many Vermonters.  It has been five years since we had a winter this cold and while we all recall colder winters, this one is 10 percent colder than last year (based on heating degree days at the end of January) and 22 percent colder than the prior winter.  The last time we had a colder winter was in 2008-09.

Most of us heat our homes with fuel oil or propane (only about 1 in 6 homes are primarily heated by wood).  Back in 2008-9, we were on average paying $2.61 a gallon for fuel oil.  This year, we are paying on average $3.77 per gallon.  This is a 44 percent increase in fuel oil prices over the last five years. Propane prices have increased 31 percent over the same period.  If we go back 10 years, we were paying $1.58 for fuel oil or far less than half of what we are paying today.  Over the last 10 years, Vermont household income has been relatively constant so doubling the cost of heating fuel hurts and it is particularly painful in colder winters like this.

Last month, I was pleased to present a check for $1,600 for fuel assistance to the Chester-Andover Family Center from the Chester Democratic Committee.  At the end of January, many of us participated in another annual event, Ski for Heat, where money was raised to help Southeast Vermont Community Action provide fuel assistance in our communities.  These efforts are important in averting crisis situations.

While there is not much the state of Vermont can do to control fuel prices, it has been a leader in helping families weatherize their homes to keep warm with less fuel.  In 1990, the legislature established the Vermont Weatherization Trust Fund financed by a 0.5 percent tax on non-transportation fuel sales.  At the current rate, the fund is on track to help 40,000 low income Vermont families reduce their fuel bills by the end of this decade.  On average, heating fuel usage is reduced by 23 percent resulting in an aggregate payback of $3 to $9 on every dollar invested.

To learn more about  the Vermont Weatherization Fund services in our area, contact SEVCA at 802-722-4575 to see if you qualify and to get your name on the list.

Let me know what issues before the Legislature are of concern to you:  email me at or call me on weekends at 875-3456.

Leigh Dakin
State Representative, District 3-1
Andover, Baltimore, Chester and N. Springfield.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Filed Under: CommentaryLetters to the Editor

About the Author:

RSSComments (0)

Trackback URL

Comments are closed.