It may be summer, but the State Planning Office is looking ahead to winter and the likelihood of record high heating oil prices.

In an unprecedented move Wednesday, the SPO issued its first summer energy prices survey.

And it found the price of No. 2 heating oil – averaging $2.09 per gallon – little changed from the end of winter’s $2.12.

The SPO also included prices for regular gasoline and diesel fuel. The statewide average for gasoline is $2.26 and for diesel, $2.44.

Beth Nagusky, director of the Office of Energy Independence and Security, said the action was taken in response to a groundswell of public inquiries.

The “volume of calls” asking about high energy costs, she said, has been significant.

“Of course they want us to do something about oil prices,” Nagusky said of many callers.

The office is powerless there, however. If people have evidence of price gouging or anti-trust violations, they’re referred to the state attorney general’s office.

Nagusky said the SPO undertook the survey in large part as an effort to remind people that the time to do something about their energy use is now, before another winter arrives.

“Reduce your demand (for fuels) and you’ll never lose,” she said. Depending on energy conservation measures, people can save from 10 percent to 50 percent on their heating bills.

State Web sites suggest steps people can take to make their homes more weather tight and also where people can find home energy auditors who can recommend steps to reduce oil consumption.

“Generally the Maine State Planning Office discontinues its home heating oil survey at the end of heating season, or in late March,” Nagusky said in a statement accompanying release of the survey findings. “However, due to high crude oil prices and legitimate consumer concern regarding energy prices, the SPO has decided to survey home heating and transportation fuel prices periodically throughout the summer.”

The survey found that this week’s average price for No. 2 oil, which heats roughly 80 percent of the state’s homes, is down only 3 cents a gallon from March. Kerosene is down 2 cents, while propane is off by a nickel.

Nagusky said her office doesn’t predict future prices, and noted federal forecasts were already obsolete, with U.S. crude oil prices having reached $60 per barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange. Those prices dropped back to the $57 range in trading Wednesday afternoon.

The U.S. Energy Information Agency in a report issued Wednesday afternoon cited the likelihood of continuing high heating oil and diesel fuel prices well into the future.

But the agency also noted that in the past three winters wholesale prices actually fell during the peak season when compared with pre-peak prices.

The agency also noted that inventories of fuels were building, a factor that could dampen speculation by oil traders.

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