by Daniel J. Graeber
Washington (UPI) May 21, 2013
U.S. consumer bills during the last two quarters were more than 4 percent higher year-on-year because of a harsh winter, the Energy Department said.
The Energy Information Administration, the statistical arm of the Energy Department, said Wednesday consumer expenses during fourth quarter 2013 and first quarter 2014 were 4.4 percent, or about $14 billion, higher than the same time last year.
"Cold weather east of the Rocky Mountains led consumers to pay more to heat their homes but less to fuel their cars," EIA said.
An arctic blast brought on by a weather phenomenon known as a polar vortex pushed temperatures well below the freezing point in U.S. states east of the Mississippi River for much of the winter season.
U.S. consumers spent 27 percent, or $6 billion, more on heating oil and propane than the previous winter. While those fuels typically make up a small percent of energy expenses, the use spiked in regions hardest hit by the cold snap.
Natural gas expenses followed with a 16 percent, or $5.8 billion, increase because of higher heating demands.
EIA said energy expenses as a share of disposable income increased 0.1 percent year-on-year.
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