WASHINGTON - Despite expectations for this winter to be slightly colder than last winter, the average U.S. household is expected to pay about $45 less for heating this winter, according to the U.S. Department of Energy's (DOE's) Energy Information Administration (EIA).

EIA's "Short Term Energy and Winter Fuels Outlook" predicts the greatest cost relief for users of natural gas. With the amount of natural gas in storage now well above historical levels, natural gas prices are expected to be significantly lower this winter, resulting in savings of about $119 for the average U.S. household. Propane prices will also be slightly lower.

However, those using fuel oil and electricity will probably feel an additional pinch on their pocketbooks: winter heating costs should be about $91 more for those heating with fuel oil and $58 more for those heating with electricity.

Increasing confidence about petroleum supplies, including the lack of hurricanes in the Gulf of Mexico this year, caused crude oil prices to average $63.80 per barrel in September. Combined with weak demand for gasoline as the driving season winded down, the dropping crude oil price caused a near record decline in gasoline prices, falling 40 cents per gallon between August and September. However, the EIA expects crude oil prices to rise to $67 per barrel by January and to average only slightly less in 2007 than in 2006.

Publication date: 10/16/2006