The Physics
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Price of Kerosene

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Pierce, Mark. Housing Fact Sheet: Comparing Values of Various Heating Fuels [pdf]. Ithaca, NY: Department of Design & Environmental Analysis (1998): 2. "You have called several fuel suppliers in your area and have learned that the average price of a gallon of kerosene is $0.89, and the average price of a gallon of propane is $1.19." 23.5 ¢/L
NYSERDA Weekly Heating Fuels Report May 12, 2008 [pdf]. New York State Energy Research and Development Authority. [see table 1] 116–124 ¢/L
International Energy Agency. Energy Prices and Taxes. Volume 2004 Issue 2 (Second Quarter 2004): 430. [see table 2] 8.45–57.47 ¢/L
"Gasoline and Kerosene Higher." Wall Street Journal. (24 April 1926): 8. "Kerosene 41-43 water white has been advanced ⅛ cent a gallon to [sic] 7⅝ to 7¾ cents." 2.0 ¢/L
"Standard Oil Men Enter Auto Field." New York Times. (13 September 1913): 1, 3. "Meanwhile, gasoline has been soaring in prices. Kerosene and other oils have been sold on the refinery floors at about 2½ cents a gallon and great quantities of lamps have been given away in China to make a market for kerosene." 0.66 ¢/L
Table 1: New York State Retail Kerosene Posted Credit Prices (cents per gallon)
Region 5/12/08 4/28/08 % Change vs.
Two Weeks Ago
Year Ago % Change
vs. Last Year
Middle Hudson
468.7 452.2 3.6% 305.2 53.6%
Capital District
461.6 447.6 3.1% 291.4 58.4%
North Country
455.6 443.7 2.7% 292.4 55.8%
452.4 435.2 4.0% 287.0 57.6%
451.8 438.2 3.1% 275.4 64.1%
New York
459.6 444.6 3.4% 292.6 57.1%
Table 2: Kerosene Prices for Households in U.S. Dollars/1000 litres
  2001 2002   2001 2002
Argentina 574.7 215.6 Guyana 273.6 226.4
Barbados 359.0 313.4 Haiti 273.7 242.2
Bolivia 317.3 327.6 Honduras 388.9 333.4
Brazil 298.1 180.2 Jamaica 433.5 384.4
Chile 361.0 332.2 Nicaragua 454.3 420.6
Colombia 279.7 219.8 Panama 305.6 258.8
Costa Rica 309.8 .. Paraguay 210.8 154.0
Cuba 84.5 84.5 Peru 473.3 461.0
Dominican Republic 353.5 315.0 Suriname 359.8 359.8
Ecuador .. .. Trinidad and Tobago 184.8 184.4
El Salvador 440.5 387.5 Uruguay 534.3 436.9
Grenada 299.8 299.8 Venezuela 181.7 93.8
Guatemala 404.7 363.6      

Kerosene is a clear, colorless liquid that has a distinct smell. It is a highly flammable and combustible product much like gasoline. And similar to diesel, kerosene also has a heat of combustion around 43MJ/kg.

Kerosene was first used to fuel lamps in 1853. But defects in the lamps caused fire hazards and they became unpopular. In the early 1990's children died from kerosene poisoning because the dangers of kerosene were not yet appreciated. Children would swallow or breathe in the substance causing them to have difficulty breathing, lose their vision and sometimes even vomit blood. This gas was also used to treat standing water during the yellow fever outbreak in 1905. The properties of kerosene in water inhibited mosquitoes for laying eggs on the water surface. But today this is known to be bad toward the environment and potentially hazardous towards public health.

Currently kerosene is used to power jet-engine aircraft, heat buildings, provide transportation and even cook. It is usually regarded as a cheap alternative to other natural gases. Countries like India and Japan heavily rely on this gas in their kerosene heaters and kerosene stoves. Their government had to subsidize the fuel to keep the prices low and affordable to every family (15 cents per liter).

Today in America prices of kerosene are constantly increasing along with crude oil prices. After the start of the war in Iraq, the trade between the two countries began to slow to a trickle. A decrease in our supply and constant demand causes this massive hike in gas prices. The price of kerosene has become a major political issue especially in India.

In 1916 kerosene was about half a cent a liter in the US, but today we pay around 122 cents a liter.

Ada Lau -- 2008