Americans had better get ready to pony up for unusually high heating bills this winter as inflation hits home, the federal government warned this week.
Americans can expect to pay as much as 54 percent more for heat this winter than they did last year, according to the latest forecast from the US Energy Information Administration.
The nearly half of US households that depend mostly on natural gas to heat their homes can expect to pay an average of $746 for heating from Oct. 1 to March 31, 30 percent more than last year, the government agency said in its report.
If this year’s winter ends up being 10 percent colder than average, those bills would jump even more and be 50 percent higher than last year’s, the report added.
The 2021-2022 winter season could prove to be the most expensive for natural gas-heated homes since 2008-2009.
Natural gas could be especially expensive for homes in the Midwest, the agency said, with bills expected to be, on average, 45 percent higher than last year.
Alongside surging inflation for products across the board — from gasoline and cars to rent and food — the looming spike in heating bills will likely weigh on American spending and put stress on low-income households.
A few factors, including a colder-than-expected winter, are driving the costly forecast, the feds said.
Surging costs for energy commodities is also expected to drive up heating bills, the feds said. Commodities have soared in price since hitting multi-year lows in 2020, during the depths of the pandemic as demand for fuel and other energy sources collapsed.
The benchmark for US crude oil, for example, was last seen trading at more than $80 per barrel, its highest level since 2014. Costs are up almost 90 percent since Jan. 1.
The price spikes won’t hit every American household evenly, though. Roughly 41 percent of Americans use electricity to heat their homes and are expected to see a more modest 6 percent increase to $1,268, according to the government’s forecast.
The increase could go as high as 15 percent compared with last year if the winter’s colder than expected, the feds added.
Just 4 percent of US homes use heating oil, but they could see a 43 percent increase in heating costs to $1,734 for the winter.
The sharpest spikes would likely hit homes that use propane, which accounts for just 5 percent of US households.
They can expect to spend 54 percent more this winter on heating, or up to 94 percent more in a colder winter, the government forecast said.