Around the nation, people who depend on natural gas as a source of heat are dealing with soaring prices following a decline in supply and a sharp rise in demand.
Central Mississippi, Inc. sponsored an Energy Conservation workshop Wednesday at Rayford-Allen Senior Citizen building to help utilities consumers overcome the heating bill chill this winter.
Representatives of Entergy and Mississippi Valley Gas addressed the group yesterday on the how and why of the price increase. Representatives also gave conservation tips to offset skyrocketing bills until prices go down.
Market prices began to rise last year, according to Morris Baker, area manager of Mississippi Valley Gas.
"Prices started going up in October and really have peaked in January, I hope," Baker said.
The average cost to fuel a home has increased about 50 percent over last year, he said.
Jim Lyles of Entergy said he expects to see an increase in price up until April.
Costs passed down
"The company's pricing reflects the costs that were passed on to us," Lyles said.
"There's nothing we can do about it, but we can work on payment (plans) and make sure that the energy you use is all that you need to use and that you use it wisely," Lyles told the group.
In an effort to relieve some of the burden of skyrocketing gas prices, the Public Service Commission requested that all gas companies under its jurisdiction work with any customer who is struggling to pay utility bills.
Baker said he doesn't know when prices will decrease or stabilize.
As area temperatures become more moderate Baker said, "I hope prices from gas bills will decrease."
Until prices go down, there are energy conservation practices that can be used to combat the high bills:
n Lower the thermostat setting on your furnace as low as is practical. Layer your clothing or wear warm clothing if you are uncomfortable at this lower setting.
nInspect heating systems and other as appliances annually to make sure they are operating safely and efficiently.
nChange or clean your filters often.
nCheck the duct work on your heating system for leaks and obstructions.
nWeather-strip windows and doors where air may seep through.
nCaulk areas of the home where outside air my infiltrate. Repair all leaky faucets, particularly hot water. Hot water leaks will cause a water heater to operate unnecessarily.
nOpen draperies and blinds on the sunny side of your home to take advantage of the sun. Close drapes and blinds on the shaded side of the home.
nUse a cold water detergent and wash clothes in cold water. If hot water must be used, wash full loads. Always rinse with cold water.