Gasoline prices have been steadily declining one to two cents per day, and the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) says they should continue to improve although an abnormally cold winter may affect them next spring. The decrease in price at the pump has been a small relief, but consumers should be aware that the possibility of long, wintry months ahead could increase the cost of heating their homes.
The national average price for regular unleaded gasoline fell to $2.293, according to a mid-November article on www.cnn.com. AAA reports that this is still up from $1.970 compared to a year ago, which is a year-over-year increase of 16 percent. Analysts have attributed the current price decline to higher imports and lower fuel demand, which was accelerated by the sticker shock felt at the pump. The EIA’s Short-Term Energy Outlook, released on November 8, estimates that retail gasoline prices are expected to average close to $2.29 per gallon in 2005, and about $2.43 in 2006.
The Outlook states that prices for crude oil, petroleum products, and natural gas are projected to remain high in 2005 and through 2006 because of tight international supplies and hurricane-induced supply losses. This and the degree of severity of the coming winter months may affect the cost of home heating sources.
The EIA projects that heating bills will rise for most people, especially for those that rely primarily on natural gas; these consumers can expect to spend about $306 (41 percent) more on fuel this winter. Households that use heating oil can expect to pay $325 (27 percent) more, those who use propane can expect to pay $230 (21 percent) more, and those using electricity can expect to pay $33 (5 percent) more.
To help and encourage Americans with their energy conservation efforts, the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) launched the “Easy Ways to Save Energy” campaign. Unveiled in early October, the effort includes a variety of public service announcements (PSAs) that provide consumers with tips for saving energy and gasoline. The PSAs will air on radio, appear in newspapers and magazines, and be seen on billboards, buses, and taxis. In addition, the “Energy $avers Guide” can be accessed at www.energysavers.gov.
U.S. Energy Secretary Samuel Bodman said the campaign will also involve the DOE and Bush administration officials traveling the country to promote efficient energy use, especially during the winter months, and conservation. He added that the DOE will be sending experts to federal facilities across the United States to identify ways to make them more fuel efficient.
DOE’s Web site, www.energy.gov, provides a fuel cost calculator, tips on buying energy efficient and alternative fuel vehicles, and energy saving tips for cars and at home.