Cumberland Times-News

October 9, 2013

Mixed news

It will cost less to drive, but more to heat the house

Cumberland Times-News

— The good news is that gasoline prices are continuing to decline and, in Cumberland and the rest of Maryland, are nearly 40 cents per gallon cheaper than they were at this time last year.

Yes, we hear you, and we agree.

At approximately $3.40 a gallon, it still costs too much.

AAA Mid-Atlantic says the decline is due to the fact that there are abundant gasoline supplies, the summer driver season has ended and refineries are switching to the production of winter-blend gasoline.

Winter grade gasoline costs less to produce because summer-grade contains different ingredients and refineries must shut down briefly before producing it. The trade-off is that winter-blend gas releases more pollutants, creates more smog and may produce fewer miles per gallon.

That, as we said, is the good news. The bad news is that government experts have forecast that households may pay more for heat this winter.

Prices for natural gas, propane and electricity will probably be higher, but heating oil users will catch a slight break — while still paying near-record prices for their fuel.

The average heating-oil bill is expected to be more than $2,000 for the season, and some industry experts say the price could go higher.

The Energy Department has predicted temperatures will be about 3 percent lower in the Northeast this winter than last — but that it will be nothing compared to the harsh winters of the previous two years.

Call that “cold comfort,” if you like.