Hurricane Katrina has left many of us paying more at the gas pumps, but just wait until you get your winter heating bills. The Energy Department predicts natural gas prices could spike 70% higher than last year.
Companies like Mid-American Energy buy gas in advance, which means you'll see more like a 30% to 40% increase on your heating bills. But this spike will continue to affected prices for months, especially for homes and businesses that burn a lot of heat.
Inside his 10,000 square-foot shop on an 80° September day, Marv Veldhuizen braces for winter. "We're looking at $4,000 a month to heat the place," Veldhuizen says.
On a good year, Marv pays about $2,500 a month to heat his Sioux Falls
auto body shop. This year, with natural gas prices spiking in part because of Hurricane Katrina, he expects to pay a little more.
"Our home heating bill is a couple hundred dollars a month," Veldhuizen says. "This is $2,500, going on $4,000. So it's a big number."
Mid-American Energy, which supplies natural gas to many in KELOLAND, will have 70% of its winter supplies purchased by November. So your bills won't be as harsh as the open market. But they say not everyone is buying ahead.
"I suspect there were a lot of them waiting for a drop-off this fall," says Tom Gesell, manager of gas supply operations for MidAmerican energy.
Mid-American says last year customers paid about $.76 per British Thermal Unit for natural gas. This year, they're looking at about $1.03 per BTU, and the average customer uses about a thousand BTUs over the heating season.
Businesses will be hit especially hard because of the amount of heat they use. Marv's Body Shop uses as much as 2,500 BTUs in cold months.
But for a guy whose business peaks with poor weather, Marv doesn't worry about what he can't control. "We do things about the things we can do things about," he says. "Everything else, you grin, bear it, and go on."
The Energy Department says the price of heating oil, propane, and electricity will rise as well.