Americans are staring down increased heating costs as the season approaches FOX 4 Kansas City WDAF-TV

(The Hill) – Home heating costs in the United States are expected to exceed normal costs this winter amid growth in natural gas exports.

Natural gas, which is used in home heating and power generation, is in dire need as Europe seeks supplies from the US and elsewhere following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

For American consumers, and Americans in the northeast in particular, that could lead to higher bills, experts say.

“It certainly seems likely that we will continue to see relatively high natural gas prices in the US,” said Harrison Fell, a senior research scholar at Columbia University’s Center on Global Energy Policy.

“We will see higher bills for many customers in the United States,” he added.

The country has seen high natural gas prices this year.

The Energy Information Administration (EIA) – an independent statistical agency that is part of the Department of Energy – said Tuesday that the price is significantly higher than they were a year ago.

Prices in 2021 have been relatively high, and this year, they “exceeded the previous five-year range.”

The EIA said that in some months of this year, spot prices for key benchmarks were “basically double” last year’s prices for the same months and reflected an increase in fuel exports.

“Liquefied natural gas (LNG) exports, in particular, have been a source of natural gas demand. Since 2021, the volume of natural gas used to support US LNG exports has exceeded the volume consumed in the commercial sector,” the agency said.

The US has increased its fuel exports, mainly to Europe to compensate for the loss of Russian natural gas amid its war with Ukraine. In the first half of this year, it became the world’s largest fuel exporter.

“Gas exports, mainly to the European market, it will continue, because Europe will really be tied up this winter trying to get energy supplies,” said Fell.

Russia is the second largest producer of natural gas in the world after the U.S. In 2021, it provided about 40 percent gas consumed in the European Union.

EU said in March that it hopes to reduce its dependence on Russian gas by two-thirds by the end of the year, and Russia as well cut fuel supply to some European countries.

However, it is not the only factor driving natural gas prices.

There is also a market imbalance because energy producers have not increased supply as much as they have done in the past to meet increased demand.

“Compared to previous years, the supply response has been muted. We are still developing our production, only it is much more muted because the producers are exercising capital discipline. That is what the shareholders want,” said Eugene Kim, director of research in the gas research team American Wood Mackenzie.

In a follow-up emailed statement, Kim predicted that consumers could see a significant increase in their gas bills.

“Although the average winter season of Henry Hub gas prices to be traded is 20% higher than last winter, consumers should expect to see an increase in higher gas heating bills,” he said, referring to benchmark natural gas prices.

“Utilities buy gas during the summer injection season to store and withdraw during the winter when heating demand increases significantly. Summer Henry Hub gas prices are up 50% higher this year,” he added.

Prices also aren’t necessarily the same in the U.S. Both Fell and Kim agreed that the Northeast could be the hardest because it doesn’t have much infrastructure like pipelines.

“It’s not that gas molecules are more expensive in Boston or in New York, but it’s more difficult to get those gas molecules to serve consumers in New York and in Boston because of the lack of infrastructure,” he said.

In the long run, Fell said there are two things that will help keep costs down.

“The long-term hope is a two-fold approach: one will get more electrification at home and get homes and commercial buildings to be more energy efficient, especially with regard to heating and cooling,” he said.

“At the same time, we want to move the electricity grid especially away from fossil fuels and towards more renewable sources that are less prone to these geopolitically driven price spikes,” he added.

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