November 12, 2009 / 10:27 PM / 10 years ago

U.S. retail heating oil price up for 5th week: Government

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The average price Americans paid to warm their homes with heating oil rose for the fifth week in a row, reaching a high for this heating season but still down 20 cents from a year ago, the Energy Department said on Thursday.

The nationwide heating oil price increased 1.1 cents from the previous week to $2.75 a gallon, according to the Energy Information Administration’s weekly survey of heating fuel costs around the country.

EIA, the Energy Department’s analytical arm, said District of Columbia residents again paid the highest retail price paid for home heating oil, at $3.05 a gallon.

The next highest prices were in New York at $2.93 a gallon, New Jersey at $2.90 and Massachusetts at $2.80.

The lowest price for heating oil was in Nebraska at $2.41 a gallon, followed by Iowa and Kentucky at $2.43 each, and Wisconsin at $2.47.

Rising heating oil prices, blamed on higher crude oil costs, prompted the EIA this week to revise up its forecast for heating fuel expenses this winter.

The agency estimates the average heating oil price in the Northeast, the biggest U.S. heating oil market, will now be $2.81 a gallon this winter, up from the EIA’s earlier estimate of $2.64. Last winter’s oil prices averaged $2.66 a gallon.

While this winter is forecast to be warmer than last year and there will be plenty of fuel supplies available, heating oil expenses for the average household in the region will be $2,009, the agency said. That is revised up from $1,892 the EIA previously forecast and up 3 percent from $1,949 last winter.

In a separate report, the EIA said U.S. heating oil inventories totaled 51.4 million barrels at the end of last week, up 800,000 barrels from the week before, and 10.7 million barrels higher from a year ago.

About 8 million American residences use heating oil, a small portion of total U.S. households, but about a third of the homes in the Northeast depend on it as their main heating fuel.

Reporting by Tom Doggett; Editing by David Gregorio

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