Lighting a gas stove
Lighting a gas stove - 
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Bob Moon: There's only so long you can bask in the summer sunshine. Before you know it, it'll be time to confront cold-weather heating bills.

In the Northwest, experts are saying customers could pay as much as 40 percent more than last year.

From Portland, Oregon, Marketplace's Mitchell Hartman reports.

Mitchell Hartman: There's significantly less natural gas in storage right now than a year ago.

Jim Williams follows energy markets at WTRG Economics.

Jim Williams: For two years, we have had very high natural gas stocks and because of that natural gas prices have been relatively low compared to crude oil.

Now, the equation is reversed. Because oil is so expensive, industries that can switch to natural gas are grabbing what they can. You and I are competing with electric utilities and that pushes the price up for everyone.

Penny-pinching consumers could turn their thermostats down. Williams reckons crude oil prices could fall too, taking pressure off natural gas.

Williams: I think that it is more likely than not that prices will ease by winter, but right now it's sort of like rolling the dice.

Even if gas bills don't go through the roof, consumers are sure to be paying a good deal more than they did last year.

I'm Mitchell Hartman for Marketplace.

Follow Mitchell Hartman at @entrepreneurguy