No. 2 oil – the fuel that heats about 80 percent of Maine’s homes – easily topped $2 per gallon Monday.

Unadjusted for inflation, “it’s a record,” said Beth Nagusky, the state’s director of the Office of Energy Independence and Security.

In western Maine, at least one dealer surveyed by the State Planning Office was charging $2.25 per gallon for No. 2.

The statewide average was $2.05, a 6-cent increase from a week earlier and a 15-cent jump over two weeks.

Kerosene reached a statewide average price of $2.32 per gallon, also up 6 cents on the week. A dealer in eastern Maine was getting $2.41 for that fuel, the Planning Office noted.

Propane rose 2 cents from a week earlier to the $2.02 per gallon mark.

“I’m glad that the heating season is about over,” said Nagusky, but she noted the outlook for energy costs isn’t bright.

Gasoline prices are projected to climb to $2.25 per gallon by summer, she said.

And that could be on the low side. A Saudi oil official recently suggested the spot price for crude oil could reach $80 for a 42-gallon barrel before the end of the year. Crude closed Friday at $53.70, up $1.60 per barrel for the week and $17.62 more than the commodity was selling for last year at this time.

Nagusky said crude is at near record highs – it briefly topped $55 a barrel in late October – for several reasons.

“The fundamentals of supply and demand” are one, she said. Demand has grown dramatically in China and India as those nations’ economies expand, and more and more people buy motor vehicles.

Speculation among oil traders is another significant cause in the run-up of oil prices, she added, along with political instability in many oil-producing nations that’s helping to fuel rampant speculation.

As a result of runaway costs, Nagusky fears that people are finding themselves in a difficult situation.

“Between food, medicine and energy prices, the choices are pretty grim,” she said.

In Maine, the all-time high for No. 2, when adjusted for inflation, is $1.39 per gallon, charged in 1980. Adjusted, that $1.39 would be $3.22 in 2005 dollars, according to a U.S. Department of Labor consumer prices calculator.


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