Today, being Monday, there was anticipation to see whether the stock and commodity (oil in particular) markets would begin an upward trend; it is not to be.  Oil is now $38 a barrel and all things remaining the same, it will most likely not go up anytime soon.  It is popularly believed that  the Saudi’s began a production glut in the fall that will take time to ‘soak up’. Along this line of thinking,  some point to that evidence that 10.6 million barrels per day are being produced by Saudi Arabia in an attempt to increase its producer share in OPEC.  However, being that global demand for Chinese exports have declined, it is highly likely that the drop in oil commodities is due to over supply in the wake of a downturn in the Chinese economy (thus slowing down its production to push out more exports-yet it is hard to point to hard evidence as China is not transparent about its economic data).

At any case with the current price of oil, home heating oil (#2) is running $2.42/gallon if you pick it up in downtown Fairbanks yourself.  At ~138,500 BTUs per gallon, it takes about 120 gallons to equal a cord of White or Sitka Spruce (at 18.1 million BTUs per cord if given a 20% moisture content).  So, at today’s price heating with #2 oil (not counting the different efficiency ratings of oil furnaces and wood stoves) you would spent $316.25 on that oil for the same amount of BTUs for White Spruce (in a cord). You could look at other factors, such as Birch giving you around 25% more BTUs than White Spruce, the cost of split/delivered wood, cost to deliver the fuel oil to your home, using kerosene instead of #2 diesel for better fluidity in cold weather, etc……Yet  the upshot is that if you look at the wood free market pricing as it is reflected on Craigslist and the major wood vendor in the Tanana Valley you can spend right around $300 a cord for Spruce wood, or you can spend around $300 for oil at the present.

So, which will you choose?  Some care- beyond the dollars- about the smell and even ambiance as their fuel burns.  Others concerned about carbon emissions may favor the wood  (as ‘carbon neutral’), while yet others concerned about the Fairbanks/NorthPole air quality in light of emission problems during cold weather inversions may favor oil.  And some folks naturally like to sit back and let the flow of the liquid ‘stoke the fire’ with ease (as opposed to the work in stoking the wood boiler…).

Keep an eye on the prices of these two competing fuels- compare them throughout the winter.  And then the question for many who may want to transition may naturally be, “what capital costs will I have to sink in to converting my current system if I want to try a new fuel”….   For that, the blog will have to wait for another post!