Winter heating costs seen up 10 percent
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - U.S. consumers will pay 10 percent more to warm their homes this winter, with the seasonal cost for all heating fuels averaging $997, or $88 more, than last year, the government said on Tuesday.
Heating oil will be the most expensive fuel, followed by propane, natural gas and electricity, the U.S. Energy Information Administration said in its annual winter forecast, which runs from October 1 through March 31.
Government weather experts say this winter will be colder than last year's, but warmer than the average winter over the last 30 years.
"Because of expected colder weather, U.S. heating fuel consumption is projected to increase compared with last winter," the EIA said.
Heating oil expenditures in the Northeast, the biggest U.S. heating oil market where a third of households use the fuel, will be up 22 percent, or $328, to $1,827, the Energy Department's analytical arm said.
Higher crude oil prices will help push residential heating oil prices to a nationwide average of $2.88 a gallon compared to $2.48 last winter.
Propane users -- located mainly in rural areas -- will pay $1,570, up $221, or 16 percent, from last year. Propane will cost $2.28 a gallon, 26 cents more than last winter.
Households that rely on natural gas will pay almost 10 percent more this winter, up $78 to an average $891 in total expenditures.
About 3 out of 5 households depend on natural gas as their primary heating fuel, and helping to keep those gas prices in check will be plenty of supply.
U.S. gas inventories at the start of the heating season on November 1 are expected to total 3.444 trillion cubic feet, slightly below last year's record level, the EIA said.
The residential price for natural gas is forecast at $13.14 for every one thousand cubic feet compared to $12.36 last winter.
Electricity will be the best bargain this winter, with costs running $855 for the season, up 4 percent, or $32, the EIA said. Electricity will average 10.3 cents per kilowatt hour, up from 10.01 cents per kwh from last year.
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