Steamboat Springs Charlene Steese said she plans to keep the heat down and wear more clothes over the winter.
No, she isn't partial to the cold, she is preparing for winter natural gas bills that are expected to to be 20 to 50 percent higher than normal, according to the Colorado Office of Consumer Counsel.
"I haven't gotten this month's bill yet, but I have a feeling that it's going to throw me for a loop," she said.
In January, Greeley Gas will raise its price above the 69 cents per 100 cubic feet (CCF) that it is charging in Steamboat Springs right now, Greeley Gas Public Relations Manager Karen Wilkes said. The exact amount of the increase isn't known yet.
The increase follows a trend of rising gas prices, which began in November 1999, when the price was 44 cents per CCF. That's more than a 56-percent increase between November 1999 and November 2000, Wilkes said.
Steese, who has been retired from the Routt County Road and Bridge Department for three years, isn't worried about paying for the heat.
"I'll pay my bills. I won't like it, but I'll do it," she said.
Other retirees on a fixed income or families on a low income may not be in the same boat this winter.
"Everybody is real concerned especially people on a fixed income," said Bob White, the director of the Routt County Department of Human Services.
"At this point, we don't have any horror stories, but we have several months of winter ahead of us," White said.
The department also has 95 people in the county already applying and qualifying for the Low-Income Energy Assistance Program (LEAP). Last year 106 people called the office and qualified, collecting $39,650.
"If we're at 95 in December, and we haven't hit the cold months yet, we'll be way past 106 by (fall)," White said.
The LEAP program aids low-income households, giving $100 to $700 through the winter to pay for heating expenses, depending on income and the number of people living in a home.
But people with low and fixed incomes aren't the only ones concerned. Municipalities and school districts will have to deal with higher heating prices, which will add up.
The city of Steamboat Springs spent $70,000 for gas last year when gas prices were relatively inexpensive.
"It's too early to tell how this is going to really affect us," Steamboat Springs Finance Director Don Taylor said.
However, the most recent gas bills the city received from its different departments are 25 percent higher than last year, he said.
The bills covered use from the middle of October to the middle of November. Taylor will have a better idea about how the winter heating bills will dent the city's budget when the December, January and February bills come in.
When preparing for the winter bills in September, Taylor said a 40-percent increase in gas prices over the course of a year would mean about a $28,000 increase in expenditures.
The Steamboat Springs School District budgeted $20,000 more on gas than in the past due to a potential increase in gas costs and additions to the Steamboat Springs High School that will about double the size of the school, officials reported in September.
Ken Reif, the director of the Colorado Office of Consumer Counsel, said gas prices are unusually high right now, but customers shouldn't expect to see them go down as far as they once were.
"I think the days of $2 gas (in British Thermal Units) that we were enjoying 18 months ago are gone," he said.
He said there are numerous reasons why gas prices are up and will stay relatively high. First and foremost is a general increase in demand on a limited supply.
Natural gas is mined and will run dry sooner or later, Reif said.
Along with nearly every new house in Colorado being heated by natural gas, all the new electric generators in the country are going to be powered by natural gas, Reif said.
Public Service Company plans to increase its capacity by 2,000 megawatts in Colorado, which is a 40-percent addition, he said. All the new generators for this power will be fueled by natural gas, Reif said.
Colder temperatures also affect the demand, he said. The past few years winter temperatures have been moderate. Now the nation is facing normal winter temperatures, which increases the use of gas.
"There is also the pure volatility that occurs when you trade commodity on the open market," Reif said.
Another indirect influence to cause natural gas prices to rise is the increased price of oil.
Oil refineries in the United States, which make up a significant proportion of the natural gas business, have the choice of burning oil or natural gas for operations. Reif said gas companies try to keep natural gas prices just below oil prices so they don't lose the refineries as customers. When oil prices go up, it gives the companies the flexibility to increase the price of gas, he said.