Gas Bills on the Rise

The city has already taken steps to reduce costs by forming a
conservation group
Gilroy – Summer hurricanes will cause the average homeowner’s natural gas bill to spike this month to $42, a 70 percent increase compared to the same time last year, according to PG&E officials.

Gas bills came in at $25 for the typical household in October 2004, but increased demand and shorter supply have driven prices up in the wake of Hurricanes Katrina and Rita.

The latter storm did the greatest damage.

“What Hurricane Katrina did to New Orleans, Hurricane Rita did to gas production in the Gulf of Mexico,” PG&E spokesman Jeff Smith explained. “We don’t purchase any of the natural gas we use from that region, but because so much of the natural gas production was damaged, it’s raised the overall market price and has had an impact on everyone.”

Smith said that PG&E buys gas at wholesale prices in Canada and delivers it to customers without marking up the cost.

PG&E estimates that natural gas, through January, will cost 40 to 50 percent more compared to last year.

The city, which heats its buildings with natural gas, has already taken steps to reduce costs by forming an energy conservation committee.

Environmental Programs Coordinator Lisa Jensema said one cost-cutting measure may involve lowering the thermostat in buildings by a few degrees.

“We’re trying to come up with some set points (on the thermostat) that people can live with,” she said, “though they may not be as toasty as last year.”

Officials also are keeping an eye on their electricity bill, since some energy plants rely on natural gas to produce electricity.

Homeowners can help conserve gas and reduce bills by lowering their thermostats, using the microwave instead of the oven, and reducing the temperature settings on dishwashers and washing machines.

For those who may have trouble paying the higher rates, PG&E has a payment plan that spreads rising energy costs across utility bills for the entire year. Low-income customers may qualify for one-time discounts or reduced rates on a long-term basis.

To learn more, visit PG&E at www.pge.com/news/ latest_topics/gasprices/index.html.

ENERGY SAVING TIPS

• When using your furnace, set your heating thermostat at 68 degrees or less during the day, health permitting. Set your thermostat at 55 degrees for the night, or when you will be away for more than four hours. This will save you 5 to 10 percent of heating costs. Clean or replace furnace filters monthly during operating season. Keep your furnace clean, lubricated and properly adjusted.

• In winter, open drapes on sunny days to help warm the rooms.

• Do only full loads when using the clothes washer and dryer. Wash in cold water. Clean the dryer lint trap after each use. Or, line dry your clothes in good weather.

• If you heat your pool with natural gas, be sure to use a pool cover.

• Close the damper when not using the fireplace. Turn your heater down when using your fireplace.

• Lower the water heater temperature to 120 degrees. For a dishwasher, check the manual for the water setting. Many have internal heating elements that allow you to set the water heater to a lower temperature. Wash only full loads.

• Do not preheat your oven. Cook complete meals of several dishes simultaneously in the oven. Use the microwave when possible.

For more energy-saving tips, visit www.pge.com/news/latest_topics/gasprices/index.html

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