Donkeys for oil

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Democratic activists expanded their home heating oil collective to Androscoggin County Thursday, saying the offer of cheaper oil isn’t intended to lure people into the party.

But it would be OK if it did.

Jed Rathband, spokesman for the new Donkey Card LLC, said the program started as a pilot in York and Cumberland counties last year. One hundred and thirty Democratic families banded together to lock in a price with Downeast Energy for $1.83 a gallon.

Throughout the winter, each family ordered oil as needed, paid the company directly and saved on average 33-cents a gallon.

This winter, Androscoggin, Kennebec and Sagadahoc have been added. Rathband said they’re negotiating with vendors to award the five-county contract to one oil dealer. People have until early June to sign up, about the same time the new price will be announced.

It costs $35 to enroll in Donkey Card, with $10 of that going to a new non-profit called Dem Corps.

Rathband said that money will be kept local for service projects like helping elderly winterize their homes.

Despite the name, Democratic membership is not required.

“We’d like to harken back to a time when the party could help (lift) the burden for folks on a daily basis,” Rathband said. “Given that the prices have been jumping by a dime a day, I think it’s going to be safe (to say) we’ll get a better price than people can get (on their own) at the low point, which is June.”

In Lewiston-Auburn on Thursday, home heating oil averaged $2.32 a gallon, according to Maineoil.com.

The emphasis for now is on heating oil, he said, but “we are working to negotiate for natural gas and biodiesel.”

Arden Manning, communications director for the Maine Democratic Party, hadn’t seen much information on it. “From what I’ve heard, it helps low-income families with heating oil and that fits with our Democratic values,” he said.

The chair of the local Androscoggin Democratic Committee said she hadn’t heard about the program yet.

For more information, DonkeyCard.com.

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