Locked in to high heating oil prices

READING, Pa. - November 17, 2008 - But many home and business owners will have much bigger heating oil bills this winter, despite huge drops in oil prices.

That's because, a few short months ago, most predictions were that oil prices would keep going up through the winter. Instead, they fell dramatically.

But the folks from Elite Fuel Services just outside Reading went against those predictions, and told customers to hold off on locking in prices.

Obviously, their hunch was right.

"You could se the economy, visibly, was stressed. It was definitely slowing down, demand was dropping off, and I felt, personally, that it was only a matter of time until reality set in," said Curvin Swartzetruber, Owner of Elite Fuel Services.

And that reality translates into grateful Elite Fuel Customers, paying well under $3/gallon for heating oil.

But there are countless people, businesses, even governmental bodies that locked in this past summer, buying heating oil when the price of crude seemed to be on a collision course with $200/barrel.

Among them was the board in Berks County, that makes purchasing decisions for several governmental and public entities in the county, including the Governor Mifflin school district.

They locked-in around $4/gallon and county officials say, at the time, it was the responsible thing to do.

"We didn't like the price we were purchasing at the time, but we didn't know where that price was going. At that point in time, in August, people were talking like the price of oil was going to continue to go up," said Mark Naylor of the Berks County Intermediate Unit.

Many people in this position are asking if there is anything they can do to get out of these contracts.

The short answer is no.

Officials with the State Attorney General's office say, if the contract you signed spells out a price, that's the price you have to pay.

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