Energy bills painful, but compared to other states, Nebraska's got it good

Thursday, July 7, 2022

If you’re not feeling the inflation pinch, maybe you’re just not paying attention.

It seems like every small item at the grocery store costs a dollar or two than it used to, and if it doesn’t, it’s because the manufacturers have downsized packages. That “pound” of bacon is probably 12 ounces if you check the label.

And that doesn’t even take into account the cost of driving to the store to shop.

As this is being written, Red Willow County gasoline prices average $4.554 a gallon compared to a national average of $4.779, according to AAA Nebraska.

That $4.554 is lower than all neighboring counties except for Furnas, with $4.514. Hmm.

The state average price is $4.659, up slightly, but nearly double what it was a year ago $2.942.

Wyoming’s gasoline prices average $4.894, but those drivers put in a lot of miles, which helps put the Cowboy State at the top when it comes to the average household’s monthly energy costs, $738, according to a WalletHub study.

Nebraska leads only New Mexico ($377) and the District of Columbia ($277) with $390, according to the study (https://bit.ly/3NOikbo).

Nebraskans are 31st with $123 a month for electricity, which many credit to the fact we’re a 100% public power state, where “profits” go back into maintaining and improving the generation and distribution system. As part of that, the Nebraska Public Power District paid $1.36 million, 12.5% of the revenue from local customers, to the City of McCook for use of the city’s electrical system last year.

Nebraskans pay $186 a month for gasoline, ranking us 33rd for the cost of traveling. We should take some solace in the fact a fraction of our purchase at the pump helps support the oil industry, an important part of the Southwest Nebraska economy.

We’re 45th in paying for natural gas, $55 a month, and at $26 for home heating oil, 38th according to WalletHub, although there might be some overlap there. In northeastern states, between 8 and 61 houses use heating oil, compared to 3% in the rest of the country.

Connecticut has the highest monthly electricity costs, $177, Hawaii leads natural gas with $158, and Wyoming with $326 and $230 leads motor fuel and home heating oil, respectively.

When it comes to the cost of electricity, Louisiana has it best with $0.0967 per kWh, 3.1 times lower than Hawaii, the highest with $0.3028. Nebraska ranks 12th from the bottom with $0.0897, according to 2020 figures from the Nebraska Department of Environment and Energy.

Idaho has the lowest average residential price for natural gas per 1,000 cubic feet, 46.73, 5.6 times lower than Hawaii, the highest at $37.75. DC drivers use only 19.10 gallons of motor fuel per month, compared to 75.31 gallons for Wyoming residents.

Let’s hope inflation of all types is brought under control soon, but until then, there are some simple steps we can take to reduce energy costs.

If you can, run the air conditioner at a higher temperature or not at all. Keep the drapes pulled and windows open on the shady side of your house to take advantage of cool temperatures early or late in the day or at night.

Drive like there’s an egg between your foot and the gas pedal. You can save 10% or more in larger vehicles just by avoiding too much acceleration and by minimizing braking by anticipating traffic ahead of you.

Watch your vehicle’s instantaneous fuel mileage reading if it has one.

With a few minor changes, we can enjoy the Good Life a little bit more than we already do.

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