The average Iowan can expect to spend at least $200 more to heat their home this winter compared to last year. That’s the projection from MidAmerican Energy. Company spokesperson Mark Reinders says natural gas prices have climbed by almost 50% over last winter.
"Every year (prices) seem to climb a little higher," Reinders said. "We’re urging our customers, as much as possible now, to take some energy efficiency matters into the own hands so that they can try to cut those heating bills now." For now, MidAmerican officials believe winter residential heating costs will rise 25 percent or more from last year.
"At the beginning of the summer, the predictions were significantly higher than that 25 percent figure. Hopefully, that’s a worst case scenario," Reinders said. "What MidAmerican does…we buy a lot of the natural gas product that we need now to serve our customers this winter. We put it in fixed contract pricing and in storage so we are not subject to the day to day price volatility during the winter months, so that helps protect our customers."
The high cost of natural gas is having an impact on other areas of the Iowa economy. Farmers have seen their fertilizer costs triple since the late 1990s. Ethanol plants and other manufacturers that work with farmers are absorbing the higher natural gas costs in their operations.