ABC News article by Alice Gomstyn and Z. Byron Wolf

Sandra Farrell, the owner of Northboro Oil Co. in Northborough, Mass., Wednesday told a the U.S. Senate's Committee on Small Business and Entrepreneurship that a typical heating oil delivery last year cost her customers $500. This year, she said, it will cost at least $850, or 70 percent more.

"It is very tough looking into the eyes of these customers when they ask me what I think they should do," Farrell said in testimony prepared for a committee hearing on heating oil. "I don't know what to tell them.

"For the first time," she said, "I think some of my customers are going to have to choose between main essentials like groceries, gasoline, warm clothes and heating oil just to pay the bills."

The committee also heard from David F. Johnson, the Deputy Assistant Secretary for Petroleum Reserves at the Energy Department, who said that the Bush administration hopes that increased production of oil domestically will lower prices for Americans.

But Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass., the chair of the small business committee, challenged Johnson, criticizing the Bush Administration for not doing enough to "wean us off foreign oil."

Kerry said the skyrocketing price of oil and its effect on home heating oil later this winter is the equivalent of "a bomb ticking underneath us right now."

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