Published October 26, 2021

Heating Prices to Soar

Written by
Kim Fundingsland
| The Dakotan
North Dakotans will likely pay more in heating costs this winter as propane and natural gas prices rise.
North Dakotans will likely pay more in heating costs this winter as propane and natural gas prices rise.

Big increases coming for propane and natural gas

This one hurts, standing out at a time when inflation is striking from all directions. Add this to the increased cost of gasoline, groceries, automobiles, and just about anything money can buy. A big hike in heating prices, natural gas and propane, will be vividly evident for many homeowners as temperatures drop and furnaces kick in with regularity.

The higher cost of heating this winter will be a major burden for many families already saddled with the challenges of costly inflation that shows no indication of slowing down. Staying warm in the coming weeks and months is going to be expensive. Very expensive. The kind of expense few plan for or can really anticipate. An expense that eats away discretionary income and disrupts family budgets.

"A dollar-and-a-half price per gallon over the winter seems high. We are already 40 cents over that."Tony Bernhardt, General Manager, North Dakota Petroleum Marketers Association

Enerbase is a Minot-based propane dealer. General Manager Tony Bernhardt, who is also a member and director of the North Dakota Petroleum Marketers Association, is well aware of what is happening in the propane market and the concerns of consumers.

“There’s no doubt the market is going to continue to go up,” said Bernhardt. “A dollar-and-a-half price per gallon over the winter seems high. We are already 40 cents over that. Will it go to two dollars this winter? Yeah, I tend to believe that. Three dollars? I can’t imagine. Two-fifty? It could.”

Recently, propane prices have generally been below one dollar per gallon with only minor fluctuations. Not so today.

“It’s a supply and demand thing. Inflation is part of it as well,” said Bernhardt. “The supply is okay so far. I don’t believe we’ll run out. We’ve got ample supply of propane here in North Dakota.”

It has been nearly 10 years since propane prices have caused such a concern for users. Bernhardt advises consumers to fill their tanks before they get below the 40% range this winter, thereby alleviating the sudden burden of paying for an even greater amount of propane at likely higher prices.

“My recommendation for this winter? If your tank isn’t full at this point in time, you are missing out,” said Bernhardt. “Fill sooner rather than later. If it gets 30 below for two weeks things could definitely change.”

Rising prices have also affected natural gas, which fuels most homes in North Dakota. Natural gas recently hit a seven-year high, meaning those heating homes with natural gas this winter can expect a big increase in their heating bills. Early estimates are that consumers will be paying at least 50% more for natural gas this winter than last.

Minot’s Human Service Zone, formerly Social Services, offers a heating assistance program for those who qualify. Applications for heating assistance became available in each of the state’s 19 Human Service Zones on October 1.

“Heat is definitely a need,” said Melissa Bliss, Human Service Zone director, Minot. “We are trying to get the word out because they are seeing they are going to have a rough winter for people financially. I suspect the numbers are going to be up statewide.”

"We've weatherized a lot of homes, been doing it for years." Rachel Haskins, Coordinator Assistant, Minot Community Action Agency

The Minot Community Action Agency coordinates with Minot’s Human Service Zone by offering a weatherization program for those people who qualify for heating assistance. Minot Community Action serves a seven-county area – Bottineau, Burke, McHenry, Mountrail, Pierce, Renville, and Ward.

“It’s a completely free program we offer,” explained Rachel Haskins, coordinator assistant, speaking with regard to qualified program participants. “We bring down heating costs because of heat loss in houses or mobiles homes. We’ve weatherized a lot of homes, been doing it for years.”

Haskins added that requests for winterization have been sporadic so far this fall, a situation that may change as winter approaches and temperatures plummet.

“Nobody’s thinking about it yet,” concluded Haskins.

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