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October 11, 2012

Heating costs to rise this winter as cold returns

NEW YORK — Americans will pay more to heat their homes this winter as they feel something they didn’t feel much of last year: cold.

Prices for natural gas, heating oil and other fuels will be relatively stable. But customers will have to use more energy to keep warm than they did a year ago, according to the annual Winter Fuels Outlook from the Energy Department’s Energy Information Administration.

Last winter was the warmest on record. This year temperatures are expected to be close to normal.

Heating bills will rise 20 percent for heating oil customers, 15 percent for natural gas customers, 13 percent for propane customers and 5 percent for electricity customers, the EIA announced Wednesday.

Heating oil customers are expected to pay an average of $3.80 per gallon, the highest price ever. That will result in record heating bills, at an average of $2,494. That’s nearly $200 more than the previous high, set in the winter of 2010-2011.

Rising heating oil costs come at a time when funding for low-income heating assistance is falling. Over the last two years, federal heating assistance funding has been cut to $3.5 billion from $5.1 billion. The number of households receiving assistance has dropped by 1.1 million over the period, according to Mark Wolfe, the executive director of the National Energy Assistance Director’s Association.

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