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Major price hike could be on the way for Americans who use gas to heat homes

Experts say conflict overseas and other countries' lack of resources are partly to blame for price hikes in America.

AUSTIN, Texas — A new federal report from the U.S. Energy Information Administration shows a pretty steep increase in your gas bill could be on the way this winter.

More than third of Texan households and around half of all American households use natural gas to heat their homes.

A 28% increase in your natural gas bill is what Americans can expect this winter, according to the agency.

"Natural gas is what generates the majority of electricity in the United States and definitely the majority in Texas," said Matt Mitchell, a spokesperson for Austin Energy.

Mitchell said that although Austin Energy is an electricity provider, the increase in natural gas costs could have effects on its customers as well, something he said Austin saw over the summer with higher temperatures.

University of Texas at Austin Research Scientists Dr. Joshua Rhodes and Dr. Carey King said that you can partly blame conflict overseas and other countries' lack of resources.

"The things like the war in Ukraine and increased natural gas exports are putting upward pressure on the price of natural gas here, which is translating into higher gas bills," said Dr. Rhodes.

"From a long-term perspective, the Europeans in general are exposed to not having a local source of natural gas," said Dr. King.

Texas Gas Service is an example of a major provider of natural gas to Central Texans. A spokesperson for the company told KVUE they aren't the entity who decides the cost of natural gas and they'll do what they can to assist their customers this winter.

The U.S. Census estimates that over 22% of national households have problems paying a utility bill. Dr. Rhodes said an increase in gas prices will have a disproportionate effect on some families.    

"Lower income households generally spend more of their disposable income, so a greater proportion of their income, on utility bills like heating. And so, you know, that will take a bigger bite out of their paycheck," said Dr. Rhodes.

Dr. King said that as gas production companies charge utility providers more, those charges could fall on customers, saying each utility company has to buy at whatever price is set by those sending them the resources.

The Texas Gas Service provided the following statement:

"Heating bills go up for two primary reasons: the cost of natural gas and the amount of natural gas used. The cost of natural gas is a commodity and has a higher price this winter than last winter. As a reminder, we do not set the cost of gas; the amount we pay is what the customer pays. Colder weather often means customers use more natural gas to heat their homes. Depending on weather conditions this winter, customers could see an increase in their monthly usage if temperatures are lower than last winter.

"There are steps that customers can do to help reduce energy use and control winter bills, like setting the temperature on their water heater to 120 degrees F or the “warm” setting and applying weatherstripping and caulk to seal gaps and cracks around doors and windows. Visit texasgasservince.com/energytips for even more cost-saving tips.

"We also understand that customers are experiencing higher prices in many areas. That’s why we’re here to help any customer that needs assistance. We have payment plans and a resource page on our website at TexasGasService.com/Cares where customers can find financial assistance agencies across the state. Our contact center representatives are here to assist our customers through these challenging times."

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