Charts: Winter heating bills to rise thanks to high natural-gas prices

Increasing U.S. exports of LNG are helping to drive up natural-gas prices, which means more Americans will struggle to pay for heating this winter.

Affordable natural gas is about to sail off into the horizon. (Gareth Fuller/Getty Images)
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Canary Media’s chart of the week translates crucial data about the clean energy transition into a visual format.

Many Americans will be paying more to heat their homes this winter than they have in recent years, in large part because of high natural-gas prices. Nearly half of U.S. households use gas as their primary heating fuel, and those households are expected to spend an average of $931 for heating from October through March, up 28% from last winter, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration.

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The 41% of U.S. households with electric heat could also see higher bills because electricity prices have been driven up by high natural-gas prices (though switching to highly efficient electric heat pumps is one great way to save on monthly bills). 

Natural-gas prices have been pushed upward this year by Russia’s war on Ukraine — that’s one big factor in the anticipated rise in home heating costs. 

But another significant factor domestically is that the U.S. is exporting more natural gas than ever before, especially in the form of liquefied natural gas (LNG), which is condensed so it can be transported on ships. Up until 2015, very little LNG was exported, but that year, Congress lifted a longtime ban on the export of gas as well as crude oil in response to intense lobbying by the U.S. oil and gas industry. Since then, LNG exports have surged, and the U.S. is now the world’s largest natural-gas exporter.

A new report from Public Citizen argues that the export surge is hurting American consumers — especially lower-income households that can least afford increased heating bills. From the report: 

The U.S. fossil fuel industry has dramatically ramped up exports of oil and natural gasin recent years, seeking to profit on the international market and keep prices high at home. The 2015 repeal of a 40-year-old ban on most crude oil exports and the construction of natural gas export terminals on the Gulf Coast has allowed the industry to maximize exports and rake in extraordinary profits while consumers and the climate pay the price. […]

U.S. fossil fuel companies are now earning massive profits by exporting gas to European countries, where natural gas prices have risen more than tenfold over the past year.

Before the export ban was lifted in 2015, the oil and gas industry claimed that allowing exports would bring down prices for Americans. Now, though, many industry executives say low LNG prices in America will soon be a thing of the past (if they aren’t already). According to a September survey by the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas, 69% of executives from oil and gas firms expect the age of inexpensive U.S. natural gas to come to an end” by 2025 as a result of more LNG being exported to Europe, and fully 81% think it will happen at least by 2030.

The consequence of America becoming the largest fossil fuel exporter in the world has upended domestic energy markets and exposes U.S. households to punishing energy burdens,” said Tyson Slocum, director of the energy program at Public Citizen. It is not in the public interest to justify exports overseas that result in increased energy poverty and energy insecurity for tens of millions of Americans.”

Climate advocates are calling for heating systems to be electrified (read: heat pumps!) and for electricity to be generated from clean sources instead of gas and other fossil fuels. That would not only slow climate change but also make heating more affordable by freeing people from the yoke of volatile natural-gas prices.

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