Pandemic-battered families face skyrocketing heating costs this winter, with year-on-year prices set to rise by as much as 54 percent for some households, according to the annual winter fuel outlook released this week from the Energy Information Administration.
“We anticipate that Americans will spend more energy this winter than in previous years because of higher energy prices. Also, we assume a colder winter in many parts of the United States.” The U.S. Energy Information Administration stated .
Prices are forecast to rise by more than 40 percent for households who use heating oil, affecting the Northeast in particular; and will increase 30 percent for natural gas and 54 percent for propane. Heating with electricity could see 6 per cent increases.
Shannan Phillips Hunt, a 47-year-old personal trainer in Bloomsbury, New Jersey, is fearful of how her family’s already-strained budget will get further stretched by increased heating costs. Her husband and she both work two jobs, but they still feel that they live paycheck to paycheck. According to her, her bill increased by a third last winter.
” We never changed our behavior, we did the same things and it was amazing how much we spent,” Hunt stated. It was frightening, how will we be able pay this and still afford it? How high will it go This year they replaced a drafty windows with an energy-efficient one. They said that they only heat the rooms where the dogs sleep. The dogs have already been wearing sweaters to keep them warm.
” “As far the middle class is concerned, we’re all being squeezed,” Hunt stated.
President Joe Biden called for the oil and gas industry’s production to rise to meet rising energy prices at an August news conference.
” The production cuts made during pandemics should be reversed in order to lower consumer prices, Biden stated.
The global energy crisis is also causing high prices in an increasingly interconnected global market. After a summer of low supply and high demand, natural gas prices in Europe are up 350 percent. This is because natural gas from the United States producers is being shipped to overseas markets.
Crude oil has climbed over 60 percent this year, pushing up closely tied heating oil prices.
Some energy economists contend that oil and gas companies limited production in order to generate free cash flow and repair their balance sheets after years of low-profit growth following the reset of oil prices in 2014 from over $100 a barrel to $25.
“Shareholders have been pushing companies to be focused on capital discipline and growing dividends,” said Paul Tice, senior energy analyst at Schroder Investment Management and adjunct professor of finance at the Leonard N. Stern School of Business at New York University.
In 2019, U.S. oil production was 12. 29 million barrels per day. Currently, it’s about 11 million barrels per day, according to the EIA.
Looking ahead to 2030 clean energy goals, low oil production is likely to persist for at least the next decade as the U.S. aims to reduce emissions and increase the use of alternative energy sources. Tice stated that Americans should be able to accept mild winters and normal prices, as well as cold winters that cause a price rise. “
Experts suggest homeowners take several steps to reduce the impact of rising energy prices.
“Insulation, which creates an air ceiling, is the best way to save money. Pascale Maslin is the CEO of Energy Efficiency Experts, Silver Springs, Maryland. Her team performs home energy audits to determine where heat is most escaping from the house, and where improvements can be made.
Attic heat loss is more than 65 percent, Pascale stated. Crawl spaces and attics should be insulated, she said. She suggests fiberglass or cellulose insulation over spray foam. This can cause extended off-gassing and can prove difficult to do correctly.
Consumers may also consider upgrading their thermostat to a programable thermostat that turns off heat when it isn’t being used. Check with your state to find out if they offer rebates for energy-efficient upgrades such as a new heat pump.
Assistance programs also offer relief, such as the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP). Consumers can check for local community assistance programs and apply if their income for the past 30 days is below 200 percent of the poverty level. Local programs and community action may also offer assistance with utility bills.
Ben Popken is a senior business reporter for NBC News.