Fuel co-ops?

I think that Americans (in particular) need to reduce petroleum use, which is all well and good unless you think of people who rely on fuel oil to heat their homes. That’s when the notion of discretionary driving runs head long into people freezing to death.

Friend and ministerial colleague Hank Peirce’s comment gave me pause:

Thanks for the reminder Scott it is such a difficult issue as we don’t want to spend too much but can’t let the pipes freeze. I might call you soon to talk about changes going on in Medford, exciting things and scary too. But a lot of opportunities for church transformation.

I’d like to talk about this with you, too.

There was an article today in the Christian Science Monitor — “Connecticut businessmen take a bite out of home heating oil costs” — that addresses the issue of fuel costs: heating oil buying clubs. A bit of Web searching suggests these clubs or co-ops are commonly found in the Northeast, which may explain why I’ve never heard of them. Of course, as a native Southerner, fuel oil is a bit of a mystery to me. (I think my parents’ home is heated with electricity. But it never snows there.)

Co-ops evoke the hippy-granola health food store where you have to pay to be a member and perhaps even have to volunteer to work. But co-ops come in many different kinds — I write about them from time to time — but naturally those co-ops that deal with the biggest ticket items offer the greatest value to its members. In the South we do have electric cooperatives, for instance. Credit unions are financial services cooperatives, and many religious institutions sponsor them. And Unitarian Universalists are singularly identified (so many are administered out of Unitarian Universalist churches) with non-sectarian memorial societies, which are essentially funeral services cooperatives.

So why not church-administered, or at least church-spearheaded, heating oil coops? The life it saves might include your own. (And it makes a good counterpart to warm-weather home repairs against cold weather.)

I’ll passively look for fuel coops, as I find them I’ll link them from within my del.icio.us account here.

If you have experience with a fuel co-op or any kind of religious institution-managed cooperative, please comment. Or if you want to network.

By Scott Wells

Scott Wells, 46, is a Universalist Christian minister doing Universalist theology and church administration hacks in Washington, D.C.


  1. Would these fuel co-ops also include the purchase of Bioheat. A B5 blend of oil, that produces NO greenhouse gases and reduces emissions. It would be great if they did. I have been working for NORA and all I hear from oilheat users id the need to go green. What better way than to go with a biodegradable blend of oil. Here’s a link you can look at to see what bioheat is all about: http://oilheatamerica.com/index.mv?screen=bioheat

  2. I’ll leave Laurie’s comment but some things don’t jive and there’s a hint of self-interest.

    For the record, B5 is 5% bio-heating oil which would mean a net reduction in carbon emissions, but it isn’t right to say it produces no greenhouse gases. Given the morally ambiguous character of using food crops for fuel, I’m no longer promoting biodiesel over petrodiesel, but continue to hope for a solution from farmed algae. Until then, as with transportation fuel, I’ll stand for conservation first and cost savings for to mitigate financial harm.

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