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ENERGY

U.S. increases forecast for winter heating oil demand, cost

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DALLAS - The Energy Department increased its estimate of what U.S. households heating primarily with oil will spend this winter.

Households will pay an average of about $2,544 for heating oil between Oct. 1 and March 31. That’s 22 percent higher than last winter as a result of a 3.1 percent increase in prices and an 18 percent jump in consumption. The department projected in the November forecast that spending would rise 21 percent to an average of about $2,526, as prices gain 3.3 percent and consumption increases 17 percent.

About 6 percent of U.S. households depend on heating oil for space heating. The Northeast accounts for about 80 percent of these households.

Gasoline consumption will average 8.73 million barrels a day, down from 8.75 million in 2011, the Energy Department’s Energy Information Administration said today in its monthly Short-Term Energy Outlook. Last month’s projection was 8.73 million barrels.

The department estimated 2013 consumption at 8.74 million barrels a day, up from the November forecast of 8.73 million.

Regular-grade gasoline will average $3.63 a gallon this year, lower than $3.64 estimated in last month’s forecast. Prices may average $3.43 in 2013, lower than the previous estimate of $3.44.

Distillate demand, including heating oil and diesel, will fall to 3.77 million barrels a day this year, down from the November forecast of 3.78 million barrels daily. Consumption next year is estimated to be 3.82 million barrels daily, lower than last month’s outlook of 3.84 million barrels.

Total U.S. fuel demand may fall to 18.64 million barrels a day this year, down from November’s outlook of 18.66 million. Net fuel exports will increase to 930,000 barrels a day this year from 370,000 barrels a day in 2011, the department said. The figure will drop to 850,000 barrels a day next year.

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