Home heating oil prices in Maine are in some cases twice what they were a year ago, and every penny of that difference is going straight into the pockets of oil companies and their shareholders. Meanwhile, households across the state prepare to choose between heat, food and other essentials this winter.

It’s wrong, morally and economically, to let people to blow their family budgets fighting cold and hunger while oil companies draw record profits – not based on any innovation, risk or efficiency, but on a once-in-a-lifetime surge in prices.

The companies didn’t earn those profits and they don’t deserve them. Instead, they should be used to help Mainers and others get through the winter – and make future ones less costly.

We would hardly be alone for taking this view. Spain has imposed a levy on fuel companies and is offering tax cuts on household energy bills. In France, electricity rate increases have been capped at 4 percent this year.

And British lawmakers have put in place a 25 percent windfall tax on the profits of oil companies operating in their North Sea, after Shell announced its largest-ever quarterly profit, and BP its largest in a decade, amid inflation even higher than that being experienced in the U.S. The tax will be phased out as prices fall.

ExxonMobil and Chevron both announced record profits, too, last quarter, with both companies’ shares exceeding analyst expectations.


That’s good news for executives and shareholders, and bad news for everyone who needs to heat their home with oil.

In Maine, where 60 percent of homes are heated by oil, and many of those are far from energy efficient, it’s very bad news.

Last January, a particularly cold one, consumers took a hit as both electricity and heating oil spiked together to levels not seen in nearly a decade. For many Mainers, it was a very difficult time.

Heading into the next winter, things don’t look much different, except that heating oil is now well higher than January’s peak. Even a relatively mild winter will be hard on far too many of us.

Gov. Mills has asked for additional federal funding for heating assistance this winter. Maine usually gets around $40 million, and last year received an extra $55 million as part of the American Rescue Plan Act.

The extra funding, as Mills noted, is the difference between a half a tank and a tank and a half for each household helped by the program. Adequate heating assistance should be available to every American who has had their household budget turned red because of obscene, unnecessarily high energy prices.


Congress should place a windfall tax on oil company profits and use the revenue to make sure no American struggles to heat their home this winter.

The proceeds can also be used through the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program, as well as incentives in the recently passed climate bill, to winterize homes and install heat pumps to make them more efficient – and less reliant on fossil fuels and the companies that profit off them.

Using heating oil, besides accelerating climate change, also leaves Mainers vulnerable to price shocks and the greed of oil companies.

We should use this opportunity to work toward a cleaner, less costly future – one that doesn’t leave so many of our neighbors wondering how they’ll get through the winter.

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