Gas bills have you hurting?

February 25, 2008 7:52:02 PM PST
We have said since October that natural gas prices were on the rise, and now the bills are coming due and few people are happy about it.Almost everyone else in our area needs natural gas to heat their homes.

If you've looked at a CenterPoint Energy bill recently you know the price for natural gas is going up at a time when it should be going down.

"We are seeing hurricane related natural gas prices right now without a hurricane," said Alan Lammey with the Energy Intelligence Group.

Natural gas is a traded commodity.

Even though there have been no major supply disruptions and winter has not been extreme in our area, speculators have kept the price for natural gas unnaturally high.

It gets worse for consumers because in Texas, most electric generating power plants use natural gas.

Lammey says, "Not only are your gas bills going up, your electricity bill is also going to reflect that as well."

When gas prices are high, CenterPoint Energy has to pay more for the product. When the gas company pays more, the costs are passed along to you.

"CenterPoint Energy adjusts twice a year for the price of natural gas, up or down, so it really depends on what the price of natural gas is doing nationally," said Alicia Dixon of CenterPoint Energy. "CenterPoint does not profit on the price of natural gas."

While there is no good reason for natural gas prices to be this high, there is little that can be done about it. You can sign up for balanced billing to help spread out the winter time spikes in costs, and if you have trouble paying the already high bill call CenterPoint immediately.

Dixon says, "If the meter reading is correct and the bill is correct, give us a call and we can work with customers on case by case basis and we can work out payment arraignments."

Some market experts believe natural gas prices will go down. In fact about 70% of the traders are betting it is going down, but right now speculators and hedge funds are keeping the price high.

Even if natural gas goes down, CenterPoint adjusts bills two times a year, so it'll be August before the reduced prices are reflected on your natural gas bill.

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