Driven by rising oil prices, Vermonters burn more wood

By Eleanor Lowen | Community News Service

According to the Vermont Department of Public Service, the price of heating oil has risen 25.1% between February and March. Many Vermonters are burning wood to supplement their heating because wood is cheaper. The heating season is almost over, so customers will be able to escape the worst effects of the price spike. However, if the high prices continue into the next season, they will be affected.

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“We’ve had more calls this time of year this year than we did last year for firewood because of the cost of fuel being so high,” said Brittnee Dwyer earlier this month. Dwyer is one of the owners of Tony Dwyer Logging and Firewood, LLC, which is located outside of St. Johnsbury.

Other types of heating fuel are rising in price, too. “Fuel prices in general in the past month have gone up about 20%,” said Matt Cota, the Executive Director of the Vermont Fuel Dealers Association.

He remembered an “old Vermont witticism” about how to tell how high the heating oil prices are. “You can tell just by driving around and looking at how high are the wood stacks.”

Firewood and wood pellet sellers are seeing a higher demand. “We’ve had more calls this time of year this year than we did last year for firewood because of the cost of fuel being so high,” said Brittnee Dwyer earlier this month. Dwyer is one of the owners of Tony Dwyer Logging and Firewood, LLC, which is located outside of St. Johnsbury.

“People with multiple sources of heat are leaning more towards their pellets. There’s more stability in that pricing, that’s not being affected by world events,” said Peggy Clay, a customer service representative at Bourne’s Energy. Bourne’s Energy sells various types of heating fuel from several locations in northern Vermont. “We’re definitely encouraging people to look at pellets as more of primary versus secondary for those that have multiple sources,” she added.

The heating season is almost over, so Vermonters will not be impacted by high heating prices for much longer. Some Vermonters have even been able to avoid the rising costs entirely because they bought their winter fuel in the previous summer. These people “aren’t really experiencing these rising heating costs because they prepaid for their fuel,” said Matt Cota.

High oil prices bring economic pain for oil sellers, too, not just customers. “The average retail Fuel Company in Vermont has just 12 employees. The name on the side of the truck is usually the person driving the truck. These are very small companies that don’t have access to cash reserves,” said Matt Cota. He explained that when prices are high, customers take longer to pay the oil companies for oil they have delivered. Since the small companies do not have access to cash reserves, they depend on revenue flowing in to repay loans that they took out to buy oil wholesale.

“The higher the cost per gallon of these fuels, has a very negative impact on our local regional economy. It also has a really negative impact on the retailers. The higher the cost, the harder it is for them to provide that service,” said Matt Cota.

The Community News Service is part of the Reporting and Documentary Storytelling Program at the University of Vermont.

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8 thoughts on “Driven by rising oil prices, Vermonters burn more wood

  1. Shiver in the dark!! Let these legislators suffer a winter in the unheated State House.
    and if they are really enthusiastic, let them turn the heat off in their own homes.
    Shut off the heat in the hospital! A cold winter in a log cabin on the prarire?

    Centuries of comfort, and health with energy, and nothing has happenned except get better.
    Global Warming is like halloween, Charming, but not real. Cancel Culture me.
    This is an attack on health, and a tax – mostly a feel good tax on poor and rich !!

  2. Whaaa? A huge increase in burning WOOD? OMG….how come the Enviro Socialist Police are allowing this? MORE wood smoke equals horrible Climate Change 🙂 Smoke, pollution, atmosphere destroying – SMOKE. Yet? Natural Gas is the cleanest possible heat source…but they want to ban it’s use, and will not allow any new pipelines to distribute it? OMG. VT isn’t ideal for solar. Hydro dams are bad because they hurt fishies. Wind Towers for power are fought because they kill birds and are noisy? Methane from Coventry landfill is good, but they fight to halt any expansion there. They shut down the nuclear plant. They hate OIL. So what is left? Is there ANY logic to a Liberal Progressive? Nope.

  3. This virtue-signaling legislature would love to get their hooks into regulating wood fuel, but they fear driving it underground into the cash economy. Wood is RENEWABLE on a 30-40 year cycle. There is no more petroleum necessary to gather and deliver it as a heating fuel than with propane, oil or electricity. It provides a living for local people, which is not so much the case with petroleum or electric heating. It provides quality exercise for the homeowner who splits, stacks and carries this fuel. Vermont’s ample forested land provides plenty of sequestration capacity for the carbon emitted. According to most people, wood smoke smells nice. The resulting stove ashes are excellent garden fertilizer. If biomass like cannabis is legal to burn and emit carbon for recreational purposes then why not wood for essential heating? Anyone who reasons that wood heating is some kind of threat to the planet is an idiot, like the neurotic individuals who are seen daily on the roads of Vermont in their car, by themselves, with the windows rolled up, wearing a mask. I am a firm but practical believer in human-caused climate change, and the necessity for mitigating it. Those on the more neurotic, less objective and practical side of that debate will take a stand against any use of energy that extends beyond shivering in the dark.

  4. Re: “According to the Vermont Department of Public Service, the price of heating oil has risen 25.1% between February and March.”

    In March 2021, I paid $2.79 per gallon for fuel oil. In March 2022, I paid $4.99 per gallon. That’s a 56% increase for the year.

    If that rate of increase holds, I’ll be paying $7.78 per gallon next March.

    If the February to March rate of increase holds steady at 25% per month for the coming year, I’ll be paying nearly $8 thousand per gallon for fuel oil next March.

    At this point it doesn’t matter whose fault it is.

    Welcome to the Weimar Republic. Get your wheelbarrows ready. For some more statistical revelry, consider how big the Federal Government’s wheelbarrow will have to be. The current Federal Debt ($30 Trillion), counted in $100 bills no less, stacked on pallets, weighs more than three times that of the U.S. Navy’s largest aircraft carrier.

    What? Me worry?

  5. Everyone on commenting here is preaching to the choir. The legislature doesn’t care about you or your struggles to survive in Vermont. The primary objective is the Progressive/regressive agenda. We are no longer a government of the people, by the people or for the people. Nothing will change to improve the lives of Vermonters until the voters have had enough of the overlord party. Quite simply, we are ruled by a one party government of restrictions and rules for the little people, most of us. So, as long as the voters keep voting progressive we can expect more of the misery brought on by an unwilling electorate to see the damage they vote for. Does anyone wonder what the end game of all this regulation looks like? Taxation without representation is the reality which is right up there with voter ignorance of the issues. The misery index is outweighing the joy of living here. The media plays a large roll in the ignorance of the voters and the Vermont media is just another arm of the progressive party aiding in the destruction of freedom, affordability, education of the children and the quality of life for the average family, citizen, senior. The progressive trance is strong and the people are weak. In other global warming news, it snowed last night, April 28, 2022. The earth must be warming!!!

  6. It’s no Trumps fault, or Covids fault, or Putins fault but it all started when sleepy Joe began to reverse the policies of the Trump administration. Anyone who does not see this has their head in the sand or is a lib. Same difference.

  7. Why does no one in government question why we don’t have energy independence any longer
    simply by changing administrations? My representative was speaking on the cost
    while no mention was made of it being a “D” thing called the climate hoax.. Time to
    go back to administrations that have American’s interest at heart and not global
    UN’s interest

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