Digging Deeper: RI heating oil prices rising

Mary Marderosia works at the headquarters of Scituate Oil.

She keeps track of the workers in the field, delivering heating oil and the customers calling to get their tanks filled.

Marderosia said the most frequently asked question is, "How come our oil is so high?"

"I don't have an answer. I don't know," she said.

All Marderosia does know is that fewer people are filling up their 200 gallon tanks as heating oil jumped 5 cents to an average of $4.08 per gallon, a record high in Rhode Island.

Marderosia said more people are getting put in emergency situations as they wait to the last minute to top off.

"People who don't have any money, they have to choose between food, medicine or oil to keep warm. It's not good," she said.

Why heating oil is so expensive while the price of gasoline is decreasing is simple economics.

"As complicated as the market is, it really comes down to the basics of supply and demand," said John Paul of AAA Southern New England.

Paul said fewer people drive their cars during the winter. But continuous cold weather means heating oil prices won't drop soon.

"As we start to get away from winter time, we may start to see the demand go down and that will bring the price down as well," Paul said.

Until those prices drop, Scituate Oil says many customers are relying on need-based groups like the Salvation Army to help stay warm.