Winning re-election in a midterm election with an unpopular president in the White House turned out to be relatively easy for New Hampshire’s all-Democrat federal delegation, thanks to some help from GOP primary voters. But unfortunately, Donald Trump’s political woes can’t help the Granite State’s members of Congress fix the issues of soaring energy costs or potential heating oil shortages.
On Wednesday — the same day as the first significant snowfall of the season — Sens. Maggie Hassan and Jeanne Shaheen joined Reps. Annie Kuster and Chris Pappas in a letter to Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm urging her to take action in the face of potential home heating oil shortages.
“We urge you to convene stakeholders in our region to plan for potential supply shortages or risks to grid reliability in the event of severe storms or prolonged cold snaps this winter,” they wrote, adding that “households in New Hampshire and throughout the Northeast rely far more heavily on heating oil than those in other parts of the country.”
The supply of home heating oil is approaching crisis conditions according to multiple sources. The Energy Information Administration reports supplies of heating oil and diesel are at their lowest in more than 70 years. This is particularly problematic in New Hampshire where more than 40 percent of households rely on oil for heat.
“This is the lowest diesel inventory we’ve had at this time of year since 1951,” oil industry expert Andrew Lipow told The Washington Post last week. “It is quite concerning, considering demand is four times what it was back then.”
New Hampshire’s federal delegation, which was endorsed by anti-fossil-fuel groups like the League of Conservation Voters, have long opposed expanded domestic oil and gas production and supported shutting down projects like the Keystone XL pipeline. However, in the Granholm letter, they complain U.S. oil companies aren’t “investing in increased production that would lead to savings for American consumers.”
The delegation acknowledged “New England does not fully benefit” from America’s abundant domestic production of natural gas due to difficulty getting the supply to the region. Instead, Granite Staters compete with Europe for international supplies in part because of the Jones Act, which mandates that only U.S.-built and flagged ships can move products between U.S. ports.
Pappas has publicly called for the pro-labor-union Jones Act to be waived, but that was not mentioned in the delegation’s letter.
The delegation also urged the Biden administration to “be prepared to utilize tools within your authorities, including releasing stock from the Northeast Home Heating Oil Reserve [NEHHOR] and other emergency authorities, to address acute supply shortages or reliability risks.”
But the NEHHOR only has 1 million barrels in reserve, while the Energy Information Administration says the U.S. consumes about 240,000 barrels a day — most in the Northeast. So that is only a four-day supply.
State Rep. Michael Vose (R-Epping) serves on the House Science, Technology and Energy Committee. He said the Granite State is reaping the consequences of the delegation’s anti-fossil fuel policies.
“The one thing that would most help New Hampshire families would be to restore our nation’s energy independence and to unleash our oil and gas industries to produce more energy,” Vose said. “Just as building more apartments and homes will bring down the cost of housing, producing more energy from our abundant national resources will bring down its cost.”
Vose points to the price pressure on Granite State utilities like Eversource, which reports supply issues in the wholesale energy markets are making it difficult to buy the electricity their customers need. The company does not generate power but instead buys it on the open market. The next auction is in early December, and the company recently told the state’s Public Utilities Commission there may not be enough bidders selling enough power to meet demands. Even if there is, the competition will be fierce, driving up prices.
The solution isn’t dumping a few barrels of oil, but rather getting more production and more pipelines, Vose said.
“It won’t happen overnight because the oil and gas industry won’t risk making the needed investments in the current political climate. Plus, the region needs infrastructure like pipelines and transmission corridors. And an investment in nuclear energy would lower future energy costs while improving our environment.”