DOE Web site to help heat homes

The Department of Energy announced that it has completed the guidelines overseeing the possible emergency release of U.S. oil reserves to the Northeast in the event of a supply shortage this winter. To aid the effort, DOE has activated a new page on its Web site that includes procedures on how sales are to be conducted.

The department is encouraging prospective bidders to pre-register on the Web site (www.fe.doe.gov/spr/heatingoil/) to receive e-mail notices and further information, a DOE spokesman said Wednesday.

Should a fuel shortage develop in the Northeast, DOE plans a rapid competitive sales process, which would take one to three days, to release emergency stock from the oil reserve. Energy will rely heavily on the Internet to register prospective bidders and, should it become necessary, distribute the solicitation and receive bids.

"They will be bidding on buying that heating oil and providing it to the market," the DOE spokesman said. "The goal is to get them pre-registered and pre-screened ... so they're a couple of steps ahead of the game," if the call comes in.

In July, President Clinton directed that the Northeast Heating Oil Reserve be established to provide an emergency fuel cushion to protect residents in the Northeast that rely on heating oil to warm their homes.

The two million barrel reserve was fully stocked in October, almost three weeks ahead of schedule, and is stored in commercial terminals in Woodbridge, N.J., and New Haven, Conn.

In the past, bidders would have operated via telephones and faxes to make offers, but the Internet should make the process move much faster, the spokesman said. Bidders, however, can still fax their offers to DOE.

"Within 10 days of getting the call, that [reserve] has to be bone dry ... and it will take a number of companies," the spokesman said. "No one company can buy all of it."

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