A recent report that inflation has hit a 30-year high confirmed what the American people have been feeling in their wallets for months. The soaring costs of pretty much everything, from gasoline to groceries, are a growing crisis affecting families across our nation.
One of the most alarming increases is the price of heating oil, which has risen by about 60% nationwide compared to last year. I have heard from many Mainers who are concerned that they will not be able to afford to heat their homes because of this increase. The average price of heating oil in Maine is currently $ 3.16 / gallon compared to $ 2.11 / gallon this time last year.
Unfortunately, costs are expected to rise. The US Energy Information Administration predicts that families who primarily heat with propane, natural gas or heating oil can spend significantly more on their heating expenses this winter.
While the amount of heating oil a household uses varies widely, a typical Maine household will spend nearly $ 1,000 more this year on heating oil for the home. That is an increase of 50% compared to last year. Maine is disproportionately affected by this increase in costs, as 60% of Maine’s households use fuel oil as their primary source of energy for home heating, compared to only 4% of households nationwide.
I have long advocated for the low-income federal energy support program that helps low-income families pay their energy bills. Maine was awarded more than $ 35 million in LIHEAP funding in early November. Given the current state of the energy markets and the lasting economic effects of the COVID-19 pandemic – and in preparation for the cold season – I am pleased that this funding, which has been granted by Congress, has been distributed.
Nationwide, an estimated 5.3 million households received assistance with heating and cooling costs through LIHEAP in 2020, including 33,000 households in Maine. This federal funding is particularly critical this year, given that the average cost of home heating will be prohibitive for so many low-income U.S. households.
In addition to supporting LIHEAP, I continue to advocate for improved energy efficiency to permanently reduce heating costs. Earlier this year, I introduced the two-part energy saving law for the home to encourage energy-efficient home improvements. This bill will help lower energy costs as well as carbon emissions by extending and extending a tax deduction.
As one of the 10 senators negotiating the two-part infrastructure package signed into law in November, I advocated that $ 3.5 billion be included in the Weatherization Assistance Program. This bill funds energy efficiency upgrades for the homes of low-income families to help them reduce their energy bills. For every dollar invested by the Weatherization Assistance Program, $ 4.50 is generated in combined energy savings and non-energy benefits, such as job creation.
I have also taken other steps to address the sky-high energy costs. These include leading a letter to President Biden urging his administration to increase domestic energy production as well as to release stocks from the strategic oil reserve and the northeastern domestic heating oil reserve. In addition, I have opposed the administration’s policies that have exacerbated energy supply problems, such as the closure of an important pipeline project to bring oil from Canada to the United States.
Families and the elderly should not have to make the impossible choice between paying for heat and paying for food or medicine. I will continue to work to alleviate the severe hardships that many Mainers may experience this winter.
Republican Senator Susan M. Collins is Maine’s senior senator in the United States.