A lot of people were shocked last week by a CNN headline that read, “Home heating sticker shock: The cost of natural gas is up 180%.”

“Prices for natural gas, the most common way to heat homes and a leading fuel source for generating electricity, have surged more than 180% over the past 12 months to $5.90 per million British thermal units,” the story said. “Natural gas hasn’t been this expensive since February 2014.”

But Atmos Energy says its customers won’t see nearly that much of an increase.

“Customers experienced for many years historically low gas prices, and even with the upcoming increase, the price will still be lower than they were a decade ago,” said Kay Coomes, the public affairs manager.

She said Atmos’ average residential customer uses 64 MCF of natural gas a year. Each MCF is 1,032 cubic feet.

“Based on that, the average monthly residential bill is $54.58,” Coomes said. “We just filed our gas cost adjustment with the Public Service Commission for our next quarter to be effective in November, and if we receive their approval, this will be an increase, which will cause the average bill to run $60.66 for the next quarter.”

That’s an increase of 11.1%.

“Atmos Energy understands concerns over the recent headlines regarding upcoming winter natural gas prices,” Coomes said. “As you know, natural gas is a tradable commodity, and the market drives the costs. We want our customers to understand, Atmos Energy does not set market pricing for natural gas. There is no profit added to the gas cost. It is a pass-through cost that we pass along to our customers.

“It is difficult to predict what the market will do going forward. We will continue doing our part to manage our rates and using the available resources, such as our storage fields to help with gas costs as much as we can. We always encourage our customers to conserve their usage with simple things, such as lowering their thermostat, while not home or sleeping. If you lower the nighttime setting from 70° to 65°, you will save about 10% or $10 for every $100 of heating costs.

Keith Lawrence, 270-691-7301 klawrence@messenger-inquirer.com

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