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The "ouch" in energy
As the cost of heat and gas go up, the government should think about helping those on the fringe.
October 12, 2005: 8:43 AM EDT

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NEW YORK (CNN/Money) - The good news may be that the bad news in today's winter heating fuel outlook could have been worse.

The Energy Information Administration says that we will pay on average, anywhere from 30 percent ($325) to 48 percent ($350) more to heat our homes this winter. Unless we use electricity and then we will only see an increase of $38 bucks, on average anyways.

For many families, especially those who do not live in McMansions in the Midwest or Northwest, that amounts to an unpleasant but affordable amount to pay over the coming winter months. For the elderly who use up most of their monthly income on rent, food, and medicines this will be painful. And it will be tough on the poorest families in the colder climes.

Don't expect much let up at the gas pumps: the EIA says crude oil will average $64 to $65 dollars a barrel next year. And it's crude that makes up about half of the cost of a gallon of gas which is expected to average $2.45 next year.

Can consumers bear the added weight?

On average the answer clearly seems to be yes, because prices have been burdensome this year and the economy is still growing. It's the people who fall outside of the averages, toward the lower end of the income spectrum, to whom policymakers need to give some special consideration if not added assistance.

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Kathleen Hays is economics correspondent for CNN. Read more of her columns here.  Top of page

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