As Winter Approaches, Heating Fuel Prices Expected to Rise

Heating oil and natural gas prices are each expected to rise by more than 20% in the Northeast this winter compared to last year. That’s according to a forecast released by the U.S. Energy Information Administration. 

The forecast, released earlier this week, says natural gas customers in the Northeast will pay close to $200 more than last winter, at a household average of $1,031, while those using heating oil could pay over $450 more than last year, at a total household cost of just over $2,544. 

James Heintz is a research professor with the Political Economy Research Institute at Umass Amherst. Heintz says the rise in natural gas prices comes after a year of low prices based on expectations that hydraulic natural gas fracturing technology, or “fracking,” would open new sources of the fuel. He says the higher prices reflect uncertainty, “or a change in expectations about when this hydrofracking is going to deliver major new supplies of natural gas, if ever.”

Heintz says rising oil prices could be influenced by recent violence in the Middle East, but says that region’s tumultuousness can’t exclusively be blamed for higher prices in the U.S. 

Heintz also says higher heating fuel prices could impact consumer spending over the winter as people dedicate more money to their heating bills, leaving less for other expenditures.