Thursday, October 13, 2005

More Warnings of Higher Heating Bills

More costly wholesale natural gas may become the grinch that steals Christmas this year.

Households using natural gas face the steepest increases in the coming months. They are projected to spend an average of $350 more this winter than last year, a 48% increase, although price hikes will vary around the country. Natural gas expenditures are forecast to go up 34% in the West, where 6 out of 10 households rely on the fuel to heat their homes.

Users of heating oil, which are concentrated in the Northeast, will spend $378 more, for an increase of 32%. Nationally, price hikes for propane are expected to be similar to those for oil, and families who heat with electricity face an increase of $38, or 5%.

Hurricanes Katrina and Rita have boosted prices for oil, natural gas and other energy products, according to a report from the U.S. Energy Information Administration, the Energy Department's statistics arm, which provided new details of the projected energy toll from the storms.

The prediction sparked fresh anxiety in Congress, where members of both parties have been struggling to respond to skyrocketing energy costs.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration has predicted that this winter, defined as October through March in the energy world, will be 3.2% colder than last winter and 0.4% colder than the average winter.