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Monday, July 7, 2008

Expect higher heating bills

From an article by Tom Content in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel:

Consumers should expect energy price sticker shock to continue well past the summer driving season, as pain at the pump is poised to give way to furnace frustration next winter.

The price of gasoline, above $4 for the past month, is on people’s minds — and it’s visible at nearly every major intersection. But another energy jolt may be coming as the price of natural gas, the primary fuel used to heat Wisconsin homes, is at historic highs for this time of year.

Natural gas futures have jumped 82% since the start of the year. Heating oil and propane prices are also soaring.

The increased natural gas prices already have resulted in electricity bills jumping twice since March for customers of Milwaukee-based We Energies and Green Bay-based Wisconsin Public Service Corp. Including increases authorized for three other state utilities, customers of the state’s five investor-owned utilities have seen rates rise by $210 million since the start of the year.

Spokesmen for the state’s large natural gas utilities said it’s too early to predict what customers may pay this winter. The futures price of natural gas, which finished last week at its highest point in more than 2 1/2 years, could still fall below its current, abnormal high, they said.

“Prices right now are in the scary range,” said Kerry Spees, spokesman for Wisconsin Public Service, an electric and natural gas utility. “It makes you look toward the winter with a little trepidation.”

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