US winter heating costs to rise for most, natgas customers to see drop
Sept 26 (Reuters) - Most U.S. consumers can expect to pay more to heat their homes this winter than last year due to surging fuel costs and colder weather forecasts, but households burning natural gas should see lower prices, according to a report on Tuesday.
The National Energy Assistance Directors Association (NEADA), representing the state directors of the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP), said "prices for home heating this coming winter will remain at near record levels."
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NEADA said an expected 7.8% decline in the cost of gas heating to $726 this winter from $787 last year would reduce this year's average household heating expenditures by about 1% from last year.
That is because about 46%, or 60 million, of the nation's roughly 130 million households burn gas to heat their homes, with most of the rest coming from electricity (about 54 million households), propane (about 6 million) and heating oil (about 5 million), according to federal energy data.
For those using heating oil, prices are expected to increase by 8.7% to $2,275 from $2,094 last year, reflecting increased tightening in petroleum markets. Households heating with propane can expect a 4.2% increase in expenditures, from $1,476 last winter to $1,538 this year.
"The continued high cost of home heating...will put millions of lower income families at risk of falling behind on their energy bills," Mark Wolfe, executive director of NEADA, said in a news release.
As a result, NEADA sent a letter to Congressional leaders asking for a $2 billion supplemental increase in LIHEAP to maintain the current program funding level of $6 billion.
If funding is reduced to the $4 billion level as currently included in the House and Senate spending bills, NEADA said states will be forced to reduce the number of households served by up to one million households and reduce average benefit levels.
The U.S. Energy Information Administration will publish its full Winter Fuels Outlook, which contains forecasts for heating costs, on Oct. 11.
(Reporting by Scott DiSavino; Editing by David Gregorio)