By Craig Erwin, Ph.D.
I have firewood piled in my yard. It gives me flexibility. Burning wood is a chore, but it’s nice to have that option when natural gas is pricey. And if wood and gas cost too much, I have half a dozen electric space heaters. Since natural gas prices are at a 14-year high, thanks in large part to the war in Ukraine, this winter I’ll burn wood.
Not only is the war displacing, injuring, and killing people, it’s also disrupting the world’s energy and food supplies. In fact, the whole world’s energy supplies are in turmoil thanks to Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine. The real pain is likely to be felt this winter as demand spikes and tight supplies get tighter. Europe is likely to be hit much harder than the U.S. Although we may have to pay more for food and energy, we are unlikely to face shortages. Europe, on the other hand, is likely to face outrageously high prices and widespread shortages.
When I switched from fuel oil to natural gas a decade ago, oil prices were much higher than gas prices, but prices fluctuate. Today gas is still much cheaper than oil, but I stay flexible. If gas prices are out of sight, I only burn wood for heat and I only use gas to heat water.
No matter how you heat your home, energy prices are likely to rise as demand increases. So get busy. Lower your electric bill by installing solar panels on your roof. Have professionals conduct an energy audit of your house and implement their recommendations. Improve your home’s insulation, lower your thermostat, use less water, and use cold water for laundry.
Although not everyone is able to switch fuels, if you can, it can give you flexibility and save you money. You’ll probably have to endure some pain and uncertainty this winter, but if you act now, maybe you can avoid spending a fortune on heat.
How do you plan to survive the winter? What things you can do to prepare for higher energy prices?
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