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For many, staying warm costs more

“Right now we’re looking at about a $1.73 increase per thousandcubic feet of gas over last winter,” said Charles Campbell, managerof Reliant Energy Entex.

“Right now we’re looking at about a $1.73 increase per thousandcubic feet of gas over last winter,” said Charles Campbell, managerof Reliant Energy Entex.

The increase in natural gas prices is a result of significantrises in wellhead prices across the country, leaving suppliers withno other choice than to pass on their costs to customers, hesaid.

“There’s nothing we can do about it,” said Campbell. “We have tobuy from them at their prices.”

According to the American Gas Association, the nationwide hikecan be linked to changes in supply and demand.

As a result of a strong national economy, demand for all formsof energy has grown. The United States produces the majority of thenatural gas used in this country, and the number of drilling rigshas seen its largest recorded increase in 15 years.

Although the price increases, which are expected to reach 33percent above last year, have been in place since July, Campbellsaid this will be the first month customers may notice. It’s nowthat natural gas will be used more for heating homes andbusinesses.

“If we have a mild winter like we’ve had in the past, mostpeople won’t see much of difference, but there is an increase,”said Campbell.

He noted that an average residential bill of $30.41 lastNovember for 46 cubic feet of natural gas will increase to around$38.14 this year. The price for 1,000 cubic feet of natural gas isaveraging around $5.25 right now, said Campbell.

At this point, prices in the Brookhaven area have risen only 26percent for the 2,800 Reliant Energy Entex customers, who receivednotification of the increase in August.

“I’m sure as we go deeper into winter it will increase to 33percent over last year,” said Campbell. “We just have to learn toconserve energy.”

Natural gas customers can offset the increase in several ways.Having heating equipment checked, changing air filters often,making sure ductwork is not obstructed and using balanced billingto spread payment evenly throughout the year can help.

Campbell noted that customers in the Brookhaven area have beenvery “understanding about it” thus far, and he hopes customers willcontinue to realize the increase is a national trend that isaffecting all natural gas customers.

Propane gas suppliers in the area declined to comment on whetheran increase was in affect or expected for residents this year.