Heating costs on the way down again
The Derrick, 11/2/01 By BRIAN FERRY
A special thank you goes out to The
Derrick for allowing this article to be posted
FAMILIES COULD SAVE MORE
THAN $100 A MONTH DURING WINTER THANKS TO A DECREASE FILED BY NATIONAL FUEL.
The cost of natural gas
is going down again.
National Fuel filed a
decrease of about 11 1/2 percent Thursday with the state Public Utilities
Commission. That dip follows a larger decrease in August.
And, after two years of
sharp increases, the recent downward trend is a welcome change for homeowners
and businesses across the country.
"Last year was
certainly the highest rates we had ever seen," Nancy Taylor, spokeswoman
for National Fuel, said. The falling prices are "good news for all of
Families could save more
than $100 a month during the depths of winter. That figure is based on estimates
that a household uses 30 thousand cubic feet (Mcf) of gas during a cold winter
Taylor said the price is
now $7.42 per Mcf - down more than a dollar from August's $8.56 per Mcf and more
than four dollars less than the $11.51 per Mcf price in May.
The November price is
almost down to 1998 and 1999 levels - $7.13 per Mcf and $7.01 per Mcf
respectively - and well below the November 2000 price of $8.62 Mcf.
The changes are due to
"Supply and demand
are what drives the price of natural gas in the marketplace," Taylor said.
Cold winter weather can
drive up the price by increasing demand. Similarly, low supply levels can drive
up prices regardless of the weather.
Schools, churches and
businesses typically get their gas from a third party and have it transported by
National Fuel, Taylor said. But that doesn't mean they're immune to price
In order to be able to
afford to keep buildings heated last year, organizations had to cut back in
other areas - from personnel to inventory to services.
Oil City School District
business manager Susan Fisher said the district recently signed a new gas
agreement. The new price, $4.81 per Mcf, is 30 cents less than the one
negotiated in July and more than a dollar less than the 2000 price.
Still, $4.81 is up
almost 50 percent from the 1999 price of $3.23. The district's cost per thousand
cubic feet almost doubled from 1999 to 2000.
Fisher said the district
budgeted $261,000 for natural gas during the 2001-2002 school year, and she said
that figure represents significant savings over this year.
At St. Joseph Church in
Oil City, the price drop will allow church officials to schedule some events
that they had been putting off due to financial constraints.
"Last year it shot
our budget completely," Msgr. John Swoger said. "We had to make
Some of those
adjustments were setting thermostats at lower levels, canceling church functions
and redirecting the funding to keep the buildings heated.
"It's very welcome
that (prices) are coming down," Swoger said. The church has been paying
about $1,400 per month for gas over the past year. He said the initial jump in
2000 came as a surprise and was a 30 to 35 percent increase.
The church won't see the
savings from the most recent price drops until the next contract in December.
"We are certainly
pleased to be able to pass along this decrease to our customers," Taylor
said. "This should provide significant relief to National Fuel customers in
the coming winter months."
The changes in prices
don't directly hurt or help the company's profits.
"By law, utilities
cannot make a profit on gas costs to customers," a release from National
Fuel said. "Companies must pass their costs directly on to consumers on a