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Heating oil hits record high on LI; gas prices inch near $4

Bill Hayes, of Cutchogue, pumps gas at a

Bill Hayes, of Cutchogue, pumps gas at a Hess station in Riverhead. (Feb. 13, 2013) Credit: Randee Daddona

Heating oil hit a record on Long Island this week, averaging $4.347 a gallon, the highest ever during a heating season, the state said.

Meanwhile, regular gasoline nudged to within a hair's breadth of $4 a gallon Wednesday, the AAA said, up another 5.8 cents from a week earlier. The average, $3.998 a gallon, is up almost 24 cents from the recent low of $3.762 on Dec. 26.

Regular gas hasn't averaged $4 or more a gallon since Nov. 21, in the aftermath of superstorm Sandy.

About two-thirds of Long Island homes are heated with oil. The average home uses about 880 gallons a year, according to the Oil Heat Institute of Long Island. The average cost now to fill a typical homeowner's 275-gallon tank is $1,195.

The average price is based on a survey of full-service dealers by the state Energy Research and Development Authority. Monday's figure was the highest since Aug. 11, 2008, when the average was $4.411 a gallon -- a time when few Long Islanders would buy heating oil. The record in that survey was $4.93 a gallon, set on July 14, 2008, as crude oil briefly topped $140 a barrel.

Monday's average also was 12.5 cents higher than a year earlier.

Until this month, this season's relatively warm weather provided the Island's homeowners some relief; although temperatures were colder than during the previous heating season, they averaged almost five degrees above normal in December and 2.5 degrees above in January, said the National Weather Service.

Temperatures this month, however, have averaged three degrees below normal.

The rising costs of gasoline and heating oil are due largely to higher crude oil prices, experts say -- especially the foreign grades of crude used in production of much of the heating oil and gasoline refined in this region or imported from Europe to the East Coast.

Meanwhile, many refineries here and abroad are idled for maintenance and repairs. "We are now at the peak of maintenance season," said analyst Andy Lipow, president of the Houston consulting company Lipow Oil Associates Llc. He predicted that the facilities would be coming back on line in coming weeks, increasing fuel supplies and probably reducing prices.

John Maniscalco, chief executive of the New York Oil Heating Association, said supplies of heating oil and nearly identical diesel fuel have been tight since Sandy struck Oct. 29 because of the heavy use of diesel fuel to power emergency electrical generators.

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