Summer is over and we are entering into the colder months of year. What is in store for America this winter?
The summer was a scorcher. It was so much of a scorcher that the nation saw an increase in natural gas power generation.
According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, natural gas use for power generation increased this year averaging 26.3 billion cubic feet per day for the first 8.5 months of 2012. This number was an increase of 24 percent from the previous year.
Bentek Energy reports that most of that increase came during the hot summer months.
The EIA reported that the Northeast market used about 6 billion cubic feet of natural gas per day. That number was 23 percent more than last year.
The jump in natural gas use matches EIA reports on coal’s decreasing presence in the power generation sector.
About 9,000 megawatts of coal-fired capacity is expected to be retired by the end of this year, and low natural gas prices have been an extra incentive for companies that can switch between the two sources.
Experts are predicting savings in utility bills this winter. The summer of 2008 saw high prices, but after shale-gas drilling took off that year, the price of gas dropped by more than half according to federal data. In the past three years residents in the Pittsburgh area saw their average monthly home heating bill cut by $60 to $100.
According to the state Public Utility Commission, average bills from the region’s four biggest utilities dropped by 30 to 41 percent.
The state Public Utility Commission said average bills from the region’s four biggest utilities dropped by 30 to 41 percent in that period.
Columbia, Equitable Gas Co., Peoples Natural Gas Co. and Peoples TWP LLC are the big ones in the Pittsburgh area. They saw a decrease in the price they pay for gas from $3.83 to $3.17 per unit, a savings they will likely pass onto consumers.
In other areas, like Green Bay, Wisconsin, experts are predicting higher heating bills. This trend is expected because of the unusual warmth of last year’s winter. Experts believe that consumers will require more heat this year because it will not be as warm as last winter.
You Never Know With Mother Nature
This year has been a hot one, overall. Both the summer and the winter months offered unprecedented warmth, according to the Farmers’ Almanac. This leads one to wonder if Old Man Winter will seek revenge. The Farmers’ Almanac is predicting “real” winter weather will return to areas from the Great Lakes into the Northeast.
Last winter was the fourth warmest since record keeping began in 1895, with 24 states experiencing below-normal precipitation. The situation became critical this past spring and summer with broiling hot temperatures across much of the country and the most severe drought conditions the nation has seen in more than 50 years.
The Farmers’ Almanac prediction: “For the coming season, we’re predicting that winter will return to some—but not all—areas. We think it will be a ‘winter of contraries,’ as if Old Man Winter were cutting the country in half. The eastern half of the country will see plenty of cold and snow. The western half will experience relatively warm and dry conditions. In other words, as in the political arena, the climate this winter will render us a nation divided.”