Natural Gas Prices Increase

Homeowners all across the country are concerned about the cost of heating their homes this winter. Here in central Alabama, increases in natural gas prices will range from 20 to 30 percent over time.

The Alabama Public Service Commission has a tough job ahead in the coming months since it regulates the rates you're charged in utilities.

Spokesperson, Clark Bruner, says, "We try to lessen the impact and spread that impact over a number of years."

However, the impact is inevitable. Scarcity of the product, the increase in our own domestic use, and demand worldwide is driving up the price. Bruner says he doesn't anticipate a gas shortage in Alabama, but it will be more expensive.

Even if you don't burn natural gas at home, generators at power substations run on fuel. So, the rise in natural gas prices will eventually show up on your electric bill as well.

Power companies throughout the southeast are still recovering from the devastating blows dealt during this year's hurricane season. Dennis and Katrina alone cost Alabama power 70 to 80 million dollars. With energy cost recovery in the hole close to $170 million, energy companies need to recoup their losses.

Bruner says, "The cost that the company pays is passed on dollar for dollar to the customer."

What you spend depends entirely on how much energy you use.

Bruner adds, "We all need to be aware of the cost of energy and to conserve it and to make wise choices."

As the weather cools down, Bruner recommends keeping your thermostat turned down, insulating your water heater, and sealing up any places in your house were warm air can escape.

The sharp rise in energy prices has both political parties pushing new legislation to improve the flow of natural gas and to study how the United States can become more independent in its energy use.

Reporter: Theo Travers