This year marks Fuel Oil News' 75th Anniversary serving the fuel oil industry. The industry grew from the ashes (literally) of coal heat with a new technology that radically improved the quality of life for residential customers. In the article, we not only give a little background on how fuel oil developed as a heating fuel, but we touched base with a few of the companies that have histories as old, or even older, than ours.
That is what is so unusual about this industry. If you look around you can find companies that have been doing business for 75 years or more. In some cases they started out as coal merchants that made the switch when market forces dictated. In others, they jumped fresh into oil sales. We even managed to talk to a company in the Midwest that was still serving the needs of a dwindling oil heating customer base while expanding and diversifying its operations to not only survive, but thrive.
I would be lying if I claimed the industry has not faced serious challenges in the past that exist to this day. I would also be lying if I said I thought the industry was not up to the task of facing these challenges head on. For all the inroads that natural gas has made, the true innovation is found on the oil side. From the newest high-efficiency appliances to green, low-sulfur biofuel blends, we have addressed major challenges. The next decade's fuel oil industry will be better positioned to compete than it likely has been since the 1950s.
Oil gives the homeowner choice. Oil gives the homeowner the face of a local, small business person to deal with and not some corporate utility. Oil can be just as green. Oil can be just as cheap, if not cheaper. And oil dealers are not just sitting around – they are finding new areas and new opportunities for business success beyond filling a customer's tank with oil as required.
Will the industry still be here 75 years from now? A lot can and will change over that time. I personally have a feeling some percentage of people will still be filling a tank at home with some form of oil in 2085. But as the history shows, the companies in this industry will likely be around regardless of those changes, providing their customers with the solutions they need to keep warm in the winter and cool in the summer.