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Read All About It

Joe Wills is the president of SMO Energy in La Plata, Md. The company has approximately 30,000 accounts, and operates in southern Maryland, which makes its business somewhat different–compared to marketers in New England, that is. “We do have the challenges with natural gas coming in,” Wills says. “But really our primary challenge is coming from the electric heat pump. Because the winters aren’t as harsh here, the heat pumps can handle the winters a little bit better than they can up in New England.” Our profile of SMO Energy and Wills, who became president of the family-owned company last summer, appears here on the website and is the cover story of the December issue of Fuel Oil News.

Even though the peak of heating season offers minimal downtime for folks in this industry to be reading, maybe you can find a spare moment to catch up on Wills and many of the other subjects we report on here.

Jim Collura, vice president and director of legislative affairs for the New England Fuel Institute, spoke to Maura Keller, a contributing writer about the current legislative environment and how it is affecting the industry:

“This is a unique environment that we are in because for those of us who do advocacy in policy work in Washington, D.C., it is a different world than it was a year ago. The commonly held wisdom among folks in my line of work was that we would have a Democrat in the White House a year ago. This was based on polling data and the general pulse was that the White House would be Democrat. Obviously the 2016 election was a little bit of a shock in that the opposite happened. We now have the most unorthodox president in probably about 100 years. That means that every industry, every special interest group, every nonprofit, and everyone who has a stake in what Washington does has to reevaluate its agenda and how they conduct work here. And that is every single industry—both big and small—because every industry is affected by decisions made or not made in Washington.” Yes, it is a busy time. Keller’s story is here on the website and in the December issue (pg. 4).

The National Oilheat Research Alliance asked the industry if it could design a more efficient tankless coil boiler, and it turned out that a certain manufacturer could (“What Makes a Tankless Coil Boiler More Efficient?). The story is here and on pg. 39 of the December issue.

Today’s domestic propane supply is more subject to global pressures than it used to be, and that means U.S. marketers of the fuel have to monitor international influences and be more responsive in their business practices, an analyst and trading expert told attendees at the New York Propane Gas Association Fall Conference in Canandaigua, N.Y. (“Propane Exports Change the Retail Business,” pg. 13 of the December issue, and here.)

“This is an international market, and now there are more than just domestic players that are bidding on propane,” said JD Buss, trading manager, Twin Feathers Consulting, Chicago, Ill.

The increase in exporting is not necessarily bad for the retailer and may even be turned into a benefit, Buss said. “There is no way we would have had this growth of supply without exports,” he said. “We probably have more supply options now than we did in prior years. And there is more financial liquidity in the current markets because of exports.”

Buss added, “Whether it’s appreciated or not, there are also financial cues or price points that are given on the international market that help us know when is the profitable or good time to potentially protect yourself”—through hedging.

Attendance at the Conference, Oct. 16-17 at the Inn on the Lake in Canandaigua, reached 100, the biggest in recent years, as fall weather cooperated to the extent that the days were sunny and, for the most part, dry, reported Shane Sweet, NYPGA’s executive director.

We hope, as you’re reading this, the weather is still sunny, and still dry, but a good bit colder. And in that spirit, Happy Holidays.

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