NEW YORK – It’s going to be a much more expensive winter for households in Maine and elsewhere that depend on heating oil, the government predicted Tuesday, while those that use natural gas should experience only moderate price increases.

Heating oil customers will pay an average of $319, or 22 percent, more this winter than last in large part because of soaring crude oil prices, the Energy Department’s Energy Information Administration estimated. Natural gas customers are forecast to pay $78, or 10 percent, more for heat between October and March.

The household heating cost estimates are based on predictions of temperatures, demand and home heating efficiency across a variety of geographic areas. But they should hit hard in Maine, where heating oil is the predominant heating fuel.

However, this winter is expected to be colder than last, driving up demand. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration on Tuesday predicted temperatures this winter will be 1.3 percent cooler than last year.

The retail cost of a gallon of heating oil is expected to rise by 16.1 percent from a year ago to an average of $2.88 a gallon. Heating oil is derived from crude, whose price has climbed 34 percent from a year ago, trading Tuesday near $80.50 per barrel.

Heating oil is used by 7 percent of American households, mostly in the Northeast.

Natural gas at the residential level is forecast to increase in price by 6.3 percent, to $13.14 per 1,000 cubic feet. Natural gas heat is used by 58 percent of households.

Households that use electricity will pay $32, or 4 percent, more this winter, with the price of power climbing 2 percent to 10.3 cents per kilowatt-hour, the EIA predicted. Thirty percent of households are heated by electricity.

For the 5 percent of American homes that use propane, winter heating costs are expected to be $221, or 16 percent, higher than last year. Each gallon of propane will jump in cost by 12.9 percent to $2.28 a gallon, the EIA estimated.


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