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DOE Sees High Winter Fuel Costs

U.S. Energy Secretary Sam Bodman (search) warned on Thursday the American economy will face a tough winter due to high energy prices caused in part by a disruption in oil and natural gas supplies from Hurricane Katrina.

"There is no doubt that this is going to be a very tough winter season for the American economy (and) for American homeowners," Bodman said in an interview on the Fox news channel.

The Energy Information Administration (search) said on Wednesday Americans who warm their homes with natural gas could see their fuel costs jump by as much as 71 percent this winter in some parts of the country.

Residential heating bills for heating oil will increase by 31 percent, and electricity users will see their costs rise by 17 percent, the Energy Department's analytical arm said in its latest monthly energy forecast.

Separately, Bodman said he expected the drop in crude oil prices this week to be passed on to consumers in the form of lower gasoline costs.

"We would expect that over time that would be reflected at the pump," he said.

The national price for regular unleaded gasoline jumped 46 cents over the past week to hit a record high of $3.07 a gallon on Tuesday, according to the EIA.