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Santa Comes Early for PG&E Gas Customers

Pacific Gas and Electric Co. sent its customers some early holiday cheer Thursday, announcing that natural gas bills in December will take a 15% plunge compared to the same month last year, and the wholesale cost of gas is down sharply on the same December 2005-to-December 2006 comparison. Wholesale charges in December also are down 2%-3% compared with November levels.

The average retail natural gas utility bill will be $75.24 this month, according to the utility, compared with an average bill of $88.49 for December last year.

In addition to the absence of the post-hurricane price spikes this fall compared to a year earlier, PG&E cited three factors behind December's lower prices -- (1) high storage levels and improving natural gas production, (2) warmer-than-normal temperatures in November nationwide, and (3) perceived changes in the winter weather outlook for the coldest areas of the country in the Midwest and Northeast.

PG&E said its per-therm cost of gas dropped to 77 cents/th in December compared to 79.7 cents/th last month and $1.023/th in December 2005, 3.4% and 24.8% decreases, respectively. Even with higher transportation charges (43.4 cents/th vs. 41 cents/th), the overall rate was down to $1.204/th, compared with $1.231/th last month and $1.434/th in December 2005, representing 2.2% and 16% decreases, respectively.

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