Written on: March 7, 2022 by ICM
On March 4, 2022, the National Energy & Fuels Institute (NEFI) published a letter to support heating oil dealers in the face of the Ukraine-Russian war (https://nefi.com/news-publications/recent-news/nefi-responds-spike-fuel-prices/). Here it is in its entirety:
The War Is Impacting Us All. During these Most Difficult Times, NEFI Is Here to Help.
The Russian invasion of Ukraine is affecting your costs, your business, and your customers. The latest price spikes are a real threat to our industry.
You are not alone. Please know that NEFI is here to help in any way we can. In addition to monitoring the situation closely and responding directly to member concerns, we have been working with our volunteer leadership and government affairs team to coordinate an official response at the federal level.
What is happening?
Oil markets have climbed to 14-year highs, putting extraordinary pressure on our Main Street businesses and already struggling American families. High energy prices have been driven even higher by global events beyond our control. Current U.S. energy policies have only made matters worse.
As the conflict in Europe escalates, the U.S. and its allies may resort to additional sanctions against Russia. This may include a possible ban on its energy imports into the U.S. Prior to the conflict, the U.S. imported an average of 209,000 barrels-per-day (bpd) of crude oil and 500,000 bpd of other petroleum products from Russia. Removing these products from our energy supply may cause additional market instability, especially if our allies follow suit. Without question, the ongoing crisis demands an immediate and decisive response from policymakers in Washington.
What is NEFI doing about it?
The NEFI Executive Committee held an emergency session this morning. The committee prepared a long list of potential government actions to provide immediate relief to U.S. consumers. Most importantly, the president and Congress must acknowledge the immediate need for domestic energy production to free us from dependence on unfriendly countries. Our government affairs team is implementing an action plan and drafting a strongly worded letter to the White House and Congress. Your help in contacting government will be needed in the coming weeks. Look for additional communications from NEFI in the days ahead.
What can I do?
The number-one thing you can do right now is prepare your business and your customers for whatever may come next. It is of the utmost importance that you plan for as many scenarios as possible. You know your business and customers best. If you have not already developed an action plan, NEFI encourages you to do so immediately. This plan should address your company’s line of credit, inventory and supply, profit and loss margins, and customer response. Additionally, the rise in petroleum futures may make renewable fuels an increasingly competitive choice. Work closely with your banks, suppliers, trade associations and communications partners.
What should I tell my customers?
First, be sure to explain the situation in clear and sympathetic terms. Feel free to use the “What is happening” response above.
Customers whose prices have been going up all season are already reeling and are looking for someone to blame. Listen to them closely, be honest, and let them know that you understand their concerns. Whenever possible, offer solutions specific to their needs. This may include pointing customers to government fuel assistance (LIHEAP) and other public and private low-income assistance programs, putting them on a budget plan for the coming season, adjusting their delivery schedule, offering energy conservation advice and other options.
Work closely with your customer service team and your communications partners to develop messaging specific to your different types of customer accounts, as well as general communications (e.g., website and social media posts, blogs and newsletter articles, etc.) to address the broader concerns of all existing and potential customers.
How should I respond to media inquiries?
Again, the most important thing to do is be prepared. Do not respond to media inquiries “on the fly” or “off the cuff.” Advise your customer service team to take a message, including the journalist’s name, number and where they’re calling from. This will give you additional time to prepare. NEFI strongly encourages you to contact your state or local association for advice on responding to specific media outlets in your area and for help coordinating these interviews. If you receive a call from a national news outlet, please contact NEFI at 617-924-1000.
Who do I contact if I have additional concerns?
NEFI’s full team is standing by and ready to assist you. For questions about media inquiries and policy issues, please contact NEFI Vice President Jim Collura or NEFI President Sean Cota. For questions about regulatory issues, please contact NEFI Regulatory Counsel Rick Schweitzer. For general inquiries, contact NEFI Business Manager Lisa Avery. If you have an urgent concern, please call the NEFI office at 617-924-1000.
This is not the first time the heating fuels industry has experienced extraordinary challenges. NEFI has been with you through wars, major market disruptions, a pandemic and more. We will get through this crisis together and we will continue to be there for you as we have always been.
Remember, you are the heroes. You are the front lines during these difficult times. Thank you for your continued commitment to your customers, your employees and your industry. Should you need assistance or additional support, please do not hesitate to reach out.