(WATCH) Cold Winter


(Original air date: Dec. 18, 2022)

When Russia cut fossil fuel supplies, Europe quickly found out they couldn’t make up for it with green energy, no matter how much they wished for it. Now, there are dire predictions about a dangerous winter there, with energy shortages, rationing, and out-of-reach prices. It turns out, Lisa Fletcher finds, there are similar, chilling predictions right here in America.

The following is a transcript of a report from “Full Measure with Sharyl Attkisson.” Watch the video by clicking the link at the end of the page.

Winters in New England are long, deep, and they can be wicked cold.

Staying warm in this region can be a challenge any winter. It could be more so this year, with natural gas and home heating oil in short supply.

Scott MacFarlane: I don’t like scarcities of anything because it creates havoc.

Scott MacFarlane is a second-generation home heating oil supplier, about an hour from Boston.

Scott MacFarlane: When I started in the business working for my father, we were charging 15.9 cents a gallon for heating oil. And when we went up to 16.4 cents, I said to my father, I said, “How are people going to be able to afford that?”

Lisa Fletcher: What are they going to pay per gallon this year?

Scott MacFarlane: We’re $5.99 a gallon and we’re making 25 cents a gallon less than we were a year ago.

One winter blast could send prices even higher. It’s the reason so many of MacFarlane’s customers, like Elizabeth Grimes, are topping off their tanks.

Elizabeth Grimes: The oil bill delivery that I just got right now, I mean it’s $100-plus more than what it was last month. I think everyone’s going to be thinking about how much they’re going to be spending this winter.

Also in short supply: natural gas.

Peter Dion: If we get into a real cold snap, we could face issues.

Lisa Fletcher: What would that look like if that happened this winter?

Peter Dion: We would have to be prepared for the potential of rolling blackouts.

Here in Wakefield, Massachusetts, Pete Dion runs the municipal gas and light department. Utility prices here could jump by 30%, and that’s not the worst of it. The colder it gets in Wakefield, and across this area in winter, the higher the demand for utilities.

Lisa Fletcher: So the risk for you isn’t an average winter. The risk for you is a series of days that are really, really cold.

Peter Dion: Exactly. That type of situation would be very, very challenging this winter.

Several factors are converging this winter to form what could lead to an energy crisis in New England. One, natural gas here is in short supply following a decade-long fight by activists and lawmakers to halt gas pipeline expansion in favor of renewable energy sources. Utility companies say those projects will not be bringing sufficient power to the grid for several years.

And two, the war between Russia and Ukraine. Russia is the world’s largest exporter of natural gas. After Russia invaded Ukraine, Russia cut off a key pipeline to Europe. That created a desperate competition to find new sources, raising prices, and cutting supplies everywhere else, including here in the U.S.

Peter Dion: The challenge this winter will be to make sure that there’s enough natural gas in New England to support it.

Lisa Fletcher: Are you worried that there won’t be?

Peter Dion: I’ve become more worried over the past few months.

In a time of very critical need, the only way this region satisfies demand is by importing liquid natural gas from foreign countries. This tank holds about 14 million gallons of so-called LNG, which is less than 1% of what it would take to power the state of Massachusetts for one day. And it all came from Trinidad and Tobago, Latin America’s largest exporter.

The Russia problem is also behind a dipping supply of crude oil imported to make the heating oil stored in these large drums.

Before Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, the U.S. imported about 700,000 barrels of petroleum from Russia per day. Sanctions against Russia have tightened global supplies, leaving people like Elizabeth Grimes facing prices as much as 45% higher than last winter.

Elizabeth Grimes: I think about my parents and their generation, and they don’t have the incomes that can support the continuing increase in prices and increase in energy prices. I think it’s going to be a real tough winter for them.

Sharyl (on-camera): What I don’t get — Texas is the nation’s number-one producer of liquid natural gas, so why is New England importing it from foreign countries?

Lisa: Because of a 1920 law called the Jones Act. And it was created to basically bolster the U.S. shipping industry. And what it says is when cargo is moved between ports in the U.S., it has to be on ships that are flagged, built, crewed, and mostly owned in the U.S. The problem is, there are no gas transport ships that meet that requirement.

Sharyl: So what’s wrong with driving it in a truck from Texas to New England?

Lisa: We did the math. It would take about 272,000 tanker trucks a day to power the state of Massachusetts — for one day.

Sharyl: My goodness. Great story. Thanks, Lisa.

Lisa: Thanks.

Watch story here.

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