Although it planned to do so, the Federal Energy Administration never put kerosene and home heating oil back under price controls this winter because it raised the "trigger" price the fuels would have to break through to bring controls back.
In a little notice-action three weeks ago, the FEA recomputed the trigger price for the two fuels because it said it had not factored in the price increase for crude oil announced in January by the oil exporting countries.
The new trigger price for heating oil was raised almost two cents a gallon, from 43.5 cents to 45.4 cents in the Northeast and from 40 cents to 41.5 cents in the North Central states of Wisconsin, Michigan and Minnesota.
At the time the trigger price was recomputed, the real price for heating oil in both the Northeast and the North Central states were fractions of a penny below the trigger price. FEA Administrator John F. O'Leary had said that if the price for heating oil ever reached the trigger price he would reimpose price controls.
Before recomputing a higher trigger price the FEA granted what it calls "entitlements" worth 5 cents a gallon to importers of heating oil east of the Rocky Mountains. The equivalent of a price discounts , the entitlements somewhat the upward pressure on heating oil prices when it appeared a s if they might still exceed the new trigger price.
Through last week, imports of heating oil replenish dwindling stocks climbed to 700,000 barrels a day along the East Coast. These were record imports for heating oil.
At present, heating oil's average selling price in the Northeast is 44.1 cents a gallon and in the North Central states it is 43.7 cents a gallon. The Northeast price is 1.4 cents under the trigger price and the North Central price is 0.8 of a cent a gallon below trigger.
The average price is not the price homeowners are paying for heating oil, which the FEA says is as much as 50 cents a gallon in New England and 46 cents a gallon in the Midwest. The average price used by the FEA is the weighted price paid by all consumers for heating oil. Large customers like electric power companies pay as little as 35 cents a gallon for the huge volumes they order, which brings the weighted price down.