At nearly $500 a drum, northern Labrador residents worry about warmth as stove oil prices continue to rise

Residents on Labrador's north coast are dealing with the high cost of stove heating oil.  (Submitted by Cathy Ford - image credit)
Residents on Labrador's north coast are dealing with the high cost of stove heating oil. (Submitted by Cathy Ford - image credit)
Submitted by Cathy Ford
Submitted by Cathy Ford

Residents along the north coast of Labrador aren't happy with the rise in the price of stove oil — which some are using as their only source of heat during the long and cold winter months.

Some, who don't have wood burning stoves to supplement their heating costs, are spending between nearly $1,000 and $2,000 a month just to keep warm. The fuel is similar to that of furnace oil but is further refined in order to lower its pour point — the point at which the fuel becomes gel.

Caroline Rideout, who lives in Makkovik, told CBC News she's paying $491.83 for one drum. About a year ago she was paying around $380.

"The cold weather months, you can burn through one drum of stove oil in two weeks or less if that's your sole heating source," Rideout said.

"A lot of people up here don't have wood stoves. They only have oil furnaces. They're burning through anywhere from two, three or four drums a month."

Rideout said she's lucky in that she does have a wood stove to keep from burning oil all winter long, but the cost of gasoline to actually go retrieve the wood isn't making things any cheaper.

She said she worries for the seniors in her community who don't have that backup plan and are living on a fixed income.

"I know some seniors who only get around $1,200 a month. If you've got to buy two drums of oil, that's your entire cheque gone," said Rideout.

"I expect that there will be seniors over the winter who have to choose between buying food or heating their homes. I don't think they should have to choose. I don't think it's fair that they should have to not eat properly because they want to be warm."

Marjorie Flowers, AngajukKâk for Hopedale, says the same situation is unfolding in her community.

Robert Short/CBC
Robert Short/CBC

Flowers said oil prices are getting outrageous and people are having to choose between heat, food or bills.

"People will be suffering this winter for sure," she said.

"I'm just feeling very bad for the families who are on fixed incomes, especially the seniors and the low income. It's just getting so ridiculous how everything has skyrocketed."

Adding further stress to the situation is a lack of sea ice, a climate impact residents have no way around.

"We haven't had very much ice. People are only now just starting to go off to get firewood and the ice conditions are still bad in a lot of places. There's only certain places you can go to get firewood," said Flowers.

"More people are burning oil now because their either out of wood or low on wood. … It's really scary to look into the future, if we're looking at climate, because things are changing so fast here."

Flowers said she would like to see Indigenous representation on the province's Public Utilities Board, which regulates the fuel prices for Newfoundland and Labrador.

All fuel types increase in price shift

Meanwhile, gas, diesel, furnace and stove oil all rose in price on Thursday in the PUB's scheduled weekly price adjustment.

Regular gasoline increased by up to 5.2 cents per litre.

Customers on the island are now paying $1.73 on the Avalon Peninsula, $1.75 on the Burin Peninsula and in central Newfoundland, $1.77 in the Springdale area, $1.74 on the west coast and between $1.75 and $1.77 on the Northern Peninsula.

Diesel jumped by nearly nine cents per litre.

Furnace oil rose by 7.75 cents per litre while stove oil rose by 6.21 cents per litre on the island and 8.09 cents per litre in Labrador.

Propane increased by 2.9 cents per litre.

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