Energy Department Predicts Lower Winter Fuel Bills
HOUSTON — — After a summer of lower gasoline prices, American consumers will again spend considerably less on energy this winter because of lower oil and natural gas prices and expected warmer weather, the Energy Department projected on Tuesday.
The nearly half of American households that are heated with natural gas can expect a decline of 10 percent in their gas spending, the agency said. The department’s Energy Information Administration, in its Winter Fuels Outlook report, forecast a 6 percent decline in residential natural gas consumption this winter because of higher temperatures, while prices will be 4 percent lower than they were last winter.
An even bigger savings will go to homes that rely on heating oil, mostly in the Northeast, with households saving 25 percent. Retail prices are expected to be 15 percent lower, while consumption is expected to be 11 percent lower. The average household could pay roughly $460 less than last winter.
Propane users, mostly in rural areas and in the Midwest, are expected to spend 21 percent less this winter than last. Total electricity expenditures are expected to be 3 percent lower than last winter.
“If winter temperatures come in as expected by U.S. government weather forecasters, U.S. consumers will pay less to stay warm this winter no matter what heating fuel they use,” Adam Sieminski, administrator of the Energy Information Administration, said in a statement.
Driving will also continue to be cheaper, Mr. Sieminski said. “December’s expected national average gasoline price of $2.03 a gallon would be the lowest average retail price for the month in seven years,” he said.
Lower energy prices should be particularly helpful to working-class families who spend a high proportion of their incomes on fuels. Much of their additional spending power should help restaurants and retailers. Many industries, including airlines and manufacturers of petrochemicals, chemicals and plastics, should also benefit from the lower energy costs.