Oil prices have slid from their historic highs earlier this summer, but households in the Northeast are still going to pay record prices to heat their homes with heating oil or natural gas this winter, experts participating in a Monday afternoon energy panel during The Council of State Governments Eastern Regional Conference annual meeting said.
The average household is expected to pay 30 percent to 35 percent more than last winter for heating oil – when prices also set record highs – and around 25 percent more for natural gas, said Doug MacIntyre, director of the Energy Markets and Contingency Information Division at the U.S. Energy Information Administration.
Skyrocketing heating prices will hit lower-income households particularly hard, and could force many cash-strapped families to choose between essentials like energy and food, unless they can get help paying their bills. In the past, many of these families have relied on the Federal Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program for aid, but this year, the funds will fall far short unless Congress votes to increase spending when it returns from its August recess, said Mark Wolfe, executive director of the National Energy Assistance Directors’ Association.
“It’s not clear whether Congress will add more money when they come back in September – the jury is really out,” said Wolfe. High gasoline prices are already taking a big bite out of the budgets of lower-income households – and families in higher earning brackets are also beginning to cut back on spending for other essentials, according to a recent survey conducted by Wolfe’s group.