Fuel co-ops?

I think that Americans (in particular) need to reduce petroleum use, which is all well and good unless you think of people who rely on fuel oil to heat their homes. That's when the notion of discretionary driving runs head long into people freezing to death.

Friend and ministerial colleague Hank Peirce's comment gave me pause:

Thanks for the reminder Scott it is such a difficult issue as we don’t want to spend too much but can’t let the pipes freeze. I might call you soon to talk about changes going on in Medford, exciting things and scary too. But a lot of opportunities for church transformation.

I'd like to talk about this with you, too.

There was an article today in the Christian Science Monitor -- "Connecticut businessmen take a bite out of home heating oil costs" -- that addresses the issue of fuel costs: heating oil buying clubs. A bit of Web searching suggests these clubs or co-ops are commonly found in the Northeast, which may explain why I've never heard of them. Of course, as a native Southerner, fuel oil is a bit of a mystery to me. (I think my parents' home is heated with electricity. But it never snows there.)

Co-ops evoke the hippy-granola health food store where you have to pay to be a member and perhaps even have to volunteer to work. But co-ops come in many different kinds -- I write about them from time to time -- but naturally those co-ops that deal with the biggest ticket items offer the greatest value to its members. In the South we do have electric cooperatives, for instance. Credit unions are financial services cooperatives, and many religious institutions sponsor them. And Unitarian Universalists are singularly identified (so many are administered out of Unitarian Universalist churches) with non-sectarian memorial societies, which are essentially funeral services cooperatives.

So why not church-administered, or at least church-spearheaded, heating oil coops? The life it saves might include your own. (And it makes a good counterpart to warm-weather home repairs against cold weather.)

I'll passively look for fuel coops, as I find them I'll link them from within my del.icio.us account here.

If you have experience with a fuel co-op or any kind of religious institution-managed cooperative, please comment. Or if you want to network.