WESTBROOK, Maine (8/8/08)--Nearly two-thirds of Maine's credit unions are offering fuel assistance loans with low rates, says the Maine Credit Union League. Some of the loans have rates as low as 0%, and the average loan rate is 4.97%, the league told Bangor Daily News (Aug. 6). Many credit unions are offering special weatherization loans to help members make their homes more energy-efficient or to help them buy alternative energy sources, such as pellet stoves, said the league. "Hopefully, these special rates and other initiatives to help with energy costs being offered by Maine credit unions will provide consumers some relief next winter," said John Murphy, league president. University of Maine Prof. Habib Dagher told the U.S. Senate's Homeland Security Committee recently that "Maine will likely be the first state to experience a heating state of emergency" (The Ellsworth American Aug. 7). Eight of every 10 families in the state rely on heating oil to fuel their furnaces. With next winter's heating oil costs predicted to be at least $5 a gallon, the average Maine family will pay $5,000 to heat their home next winter. Ten years ago Maine families spent less than 5% of their household budgets on energy; today energy accounts for almost 25% of household budgets.