It's going to cost a lot more to heat homes this winter, even if the weather doesn't get very cold, with the cost of energy climbing to prices that haven't been seen in years, industry experts are warning.
Prices dropped drastically last winter while the global economy dropped during the pandemic, but now the price of the natural gas that's used to heat almost half of the homes in the United States has almost doubled since last November. Additionally, the price of the crude oil used to make the heating oil has almost doubled, as well as the propane that's used to heat another 10% of homes, reports The New York Times.
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration is predicting a milder than usual winter, but the U.S. Energy Information Administration says that if winter is even a bit colder than usual, energy bills could go up by 15% in households heated by electricity, 50% for houses heated by natural gas, and 59% for those that use heating oil, and by a whopping 90% for people who use propane.
The growing prices come as consumers also see inflation hitting hard in other areas, such as the prices of gasoline and groceries. There are several factors said to be in play, including a mismatch between supply and demand, lower inventories of global fuel, and incentives that allow producers to raise prices.
That just adds up to a lot of frustration from consumers who don't know how they're going to pay to keep their families warm this winter and don't care about confusing explanations, said Mark Wolfe, executive director of the National Energy Assistance Directors' Association.
"The public is going to get angry," when the high bills start coming in December or January, said Wolfe, who heads the group of state officials that administers assistance.
People in the southern half of the country, where winters are mild, mainly depend on electricity and may not face a similar price spike, according to experts.
But people living in rural areas and the Northeast and Northern Plains who depend on heating oil and propane could face much higher bills this winter because of fluctuations in the fuel prices. A bipartisan group of senators led by Sens. Susan Collins, R-Maine, and Jack Reed, D-R.I., have now written to the White House to ask for "targeted actions" because of the state of the energy markets.
These actions would include limiting the export of natural gas resources and using stock from the Strategic Petroleum Reserve and the Northeast Home Heating Oil Reserve to reduce the impact of regional shortages, the senators wrote.
The Biden administration last week authorized an early release of 90% of the $3.75 billion that is dedicated to the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program, which has gotten $4.5 billion in additional energy grant funds this year. The program's funding isn't usually released until Congress approves all budget items for the fiscal year, but the exception was made while the arguments over the pending spending bills went on.
Wolfe’s group is asking Congress for another $5 billion for the program to be included in the social safety package still under negotiation.
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