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A continuation of well above-average warmth into this spring is helping consumers, some more than others, deal with high gasoline prices.
Amazing warmth continues in the wake of one of the warmest winters on record in the United States. Temperatures during March are averaging 5 to 10 degrees above average over much of the eastern two-thirds of the nation.
This was the fourth warmest winter compared to the past 117 winters, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).
The savings are obvious in terms of the cost for heat. The price for energy used for heating is generally a matter of supply and demand.
However, according to Dr. Joel N. Myers, Founder and President of AccuWeather, "The amount of savings of the warm weather this winter has varied tremendously based on what fuel source homes and businesses are using."
Despite the corresponding drop in home heating oil consumption due to the warm weather, the gap in what heating oil consumers are paying versus what natural gas consumers are paying has never been greater.
"It's a double-whammy for home heating oil users, as they are paying the price at the pump like everyone else." Myers said.
The extreme warmth has lowered demand of heating fuels across the board. The forecast of continuing above-average warmth well into the spring for much of the nation continues the speculation of continued less demand for heat in the near future.
New technology and recent discoveries have made it feasible to extract natural gas from shale rock. The resulting boom in natural gas wells in Pennsylvania and other states is adding to the glut.
Natural gas prices recently reached a 10-year low according to the Washington Post. As of March 13, 2012, prices were $2.32 per 1,000 cubic feet, up slightly from the low.
"Not only are home heating oil consumers paying more at the pump like everyone else, they have been paying more per-gallon to heat their homes this year, compared to last year, despite the warmth," Myers added.
According to the Boston Globe, the average oil heating bill this winter is $1,370 more than the average natural gas bill.
The Northeast has the heaviest concentration of heating oil consumers in the U.S.
Folks in the Northeast should feel fortunate that temperatures averaged between 3 and 6 degrees above normal this winter, or the heating cost could have been much worse.
For the rest of the heating season, energy consumption for heat should continue to be low over much of the U.S. with a couple of exceptions.
According to Long Range Weather Expert Paul Pastelok, "Some folks in the Northeast and the Northwest will still need to crank up the heat well into the spring, at least at night."
Pastelok added that this summer, chances are that only a small part of the nation would experience below-average temperatures.
"We will have to watch how much heat builds and spreads from the middle of the nation in May and June," Myers said.
A longer and hotter warm weather season would translate to increased power demands from air conditioning and potentially could negate some of the energy savings for consumers from the winter and early spring.
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