WASHINGTON - The impact of the hurricanes on oil and natural gas production, oil refining, natural gas processing, and pipeline systems has further strained already-tight natural gas and petroleum product markets on the eve of the 2005-2006 heating season. Because of this, expect significantly higher winter heating expenditures, says the U.S. Department of Energy's (DOE's) Energy Information Administration (EAI).

According to the EAI, this winter, residential space-heating expenditures are projected to increase for all fuel types compared to year-ago levels. On average, households heating primarily with natural gas are expected to spend about 48 percent more in fuel expenditures. Households heating primarily with heating oil can expect to pay, on average, 32 percent more. Households heating primarily with propane can expect to pay, on average, 30 percent more. Only households heating primarily with electricity will take a smaller hit; they can expect, on average, to pay 5 percent more.

Should colder weather prevail, expenditures will be even higher, says the EAI. These averages provide a broad guide to expected changes from last winter, but fuel expenditures for individual households are highly dependent on local weather conditions, the size and efficiency of individual homes and their heating equipment, and thermostat settings.

Publication date: 10/17/2005