Although the most recent estimates from the Energy InformationAdministration show gas consumption so far this winter to be up1.7%, or 1.28 Bcf/d, from the same period last winter (Novemberthrough February), the warming effects of El Nino continue to put adamper on gas and energy use. Since the beginning of November,population weighted heating degree days as calculated by theNational Weather Service have averaged about 10% fewer than normaland 7.6% fewer than last winter. But since Jan. 1, there have been20% fewer heating degree days than normal (1,438 HDD compared to1,801 HDDs) and 15% fewer than last year (1,683 HDDs). Heatingdegree days are calculated by measuring the differences between themean daily temperatures in 200 cities across the U.S. and 65degrees. Every region of the country has had fewer HHDs than normalduring the months of January and February.

In fact, total energy use has been plummeting since thebeginning of the year, according to the CNG Energy Index, whichcalculates both home heating and cooling energy needs across theUnited States. CNG yesterday calculated energy use so far this yearhas been down 25% from normal. Every region of the country hadbelow-normal energy requirements in January and February, accordingto the CNG Energy Index. The regions with the greatest departuresfrom normal were the Mid-Atlantic (29.9% below normal) and GreatLakes (29.1% below normal). The regions with the least deviationfrom normal were the Southwest (13.2% below normal) and Pacific(16.3% below normal).

“The effects of this classic El Nino are very clear,” saidJoseph H. Petrowski, president of CNG Energy Services. “In parts ofthe country where it is typically below freezing throughout Januaryand February, daytime highs often hit 50 degrees or higher. And, inplaces that are usually warm all winter, the temperatures have beenrather cool. These two trends have resulted in greatly lowering theneed to turn up the furnace or the air conditioner.” Tuesday wasthe first day since New Year’s Day that the CNG Energy Indexaverage was above normal for the United States as a whole.

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