Temps plunge — and heating costs in New York City soar

February 11, 2014 12:59PM

As winter temperatures continue their tumble in February, the cost of staying warm is hitting near-record highs in New York State.

The price of residential heating oil in the Empire State hit $4.48 per gallon on Feb. 3 — the highest price for the utility since 1990, according to U.S. Energy Information Administration data cited by Bloomberg News. This year alone, the cost to New Yorkers has climbed 25.4 cents. And they aren’t alone in their pricey payments: nationwide, the fuel cost averaged $4.24 per gallon, also nabbing a record.

“These prices are absolutely nuts because there’s just no supply,” Bob Castoro, who owns the New York-based Dyno Fuel Oil, told Bloomberg. “I don’t know how my customers are going to pay their bills. It’s a choice between eating or putting heating oil in the tank to stay warm.”

Dwindling heating oil and diesel stockpiles are to blame for the high costs, with the number of barrels plunging by 2.05 million as of the week ended Jan. 31 — the lowest levels since 1990, according to Energy Information Administration data. Natural gas pipelines have been restricted during cold weather, and refinery maintenance has cut fuel output, impacting the 5.38 million households that rely on oil for primary space heating in the northeastern U.S.

Heating oil distributors are struggling to meet customer demand in the crunch and are passing the soaring cost of oil on to their customers. Castoro, who is charging as much as $4.56 per gallon in eastern Suffolk County, told Bloomberg these are the highest prices he’s ever charged. [Bloomberg News]Julie Strickland