HEAT USA, a consumer group representing more than 30,000 heating oil users in New York, is calling upon New York State Attorney General Elliot Spitzer to investigate last week's dramatic increase in the wholesale price of home heating oil.
Since February 3 whole heating oil values have leapt more than 20 cents a gallon, an increase last seen during the heating oil crisis in January 2000.
"On Wednesday, February 5, the American Petroleum Institute reported an inventory of 114,000,000 gallons of oil; that's plenty of heating oil," said Tim Irving, Executive Director, HEAT USA.
"It looks to us as though there are a few large players in the market that are using the anxiety over Iraq to create an artificial shortage in the New York region. If a few big sellers are able to keep their oil from reaching the market, even for a few days, they can foster anxiety, and sell into that at a huge profit. If anyone asks questions, they figure they can blame it on the war."
HEAT USA is asking the Attorney General to look at the real causes of the price increase and to examine extreme changes in the spread between NYMEX heating oil prices, and the cash price paid by local wholesalers. Historically the spread is only a few pennies, but as of Thursday, February 6, it was over 20 cents a gallon and climbing, HEAT USA noted.