WASHINGTON - Higher fuel prices and a colder winter are expected to drive up residential heating bills from 15 percent to 28 percent this winter, according to a report released by the Department of Energy's (DOE's) Energy Information Administration (EIA).

The EIA said tight global oil markets and elevated crude oil prices are projected to result in higher prices for natural gas, propane, and heating oil. Average residential natural gas prices this winter are expected to be 11 percent higher than last winter, with household heating bills expected to be 15 percent higher due to colder weather in regions with gas-heated homes. Propane prices are expected to average 17 percent above last winter, with 22 percent higher expenditures for propane-heated households. Heating oil users will take the biggest hit, with a 29 percent increase in prices, although a slightly warmer winter in the Northeast is expected to hold the increase in those households' heating bills to 28 percent.

On the plus side, the EIA said inventories of heating fuels are sufficient to avoid price spikes from surges in demand under most circumstances.

Publication date: 11/01/2004