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High Energy Demand Persists Into Spring for Midwest, East

With a quick transition from a need for heating to air conditioning, energy usage will remain high through the early spring.

Preceding the coldest winter of the last decade, average heating days across the United States were in total 13 percent higher than last winter and 10 percent above the October through February 10-year average, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, or EIA.

As propane prices rose on average more than two dollars per gallon from December through January, supply storages were tightened, especially in the Midwest, the EIA reported. While prices have since fallen, the EIA expects that the average cost per gallon will turn out to be nearly 51 percent higher than last winter in the Midwest and approximately 15 percent higher in the Northeast.

With a lingering chill expected to last into April for the Midwest, Ohio Valley, far interior Northeast and Great Lakes, energy use will stay high as heating will remain necessary in these areas, according to Lead Long-Range Forecaster Paul Pastelok. This could further impact energy prices.

"The Great Lakes and the cities of Detroit, Cleveland, Chicago and Minneapolis will use heat a little longer than normal because of a cool spring," Pastelok said. "Temperatures will even struggle to rise at the beginning of the summer for this region."

Although heating oil supplies were tightened in this winter's icy grips due to low temperatures and the overall decrease in crude oil prices, the EIA estimates that heating oil prices this winter were one percent lower than last winter. However, natural gas and oil will still be in high demand in the Northeast, as some heat use may still be needed in April.

High energy demand will remain the largest concern for the spring season in the Northeast and mid-Atlantic, as the areas undergo a quick transition from colder weather to high temperatures.

"In May, a quick warmup is possible along the East Coast to the Southeast," Pastelok said. "Philadelphia to New York City may be close to 3 degrees above-normal for the month, so high energy use will switch to cooling purposes."

Unlike the Northeast and mid-Atlantic, the Midwest and the Plains will undergo a smooth transition from heating to cooling, so energy demands in the area are expected to follow their typical seasonal patterns.

Moving west, chilly spring weather will create above-normal energy use through April and early May in the northern Rockies and the Upper Plains.

However, as this spring becomes the second in a row with a severe drought for areas from western Texas through central California, the extreme dryness will take a toll on not only the planting season but also on energy demand.

"The West will use more energy for cooling in late May and early June as temperatures could top out to over 90 F in the Sacramento Valley. This could cause energy to be used much more quickly," Pastelok said.

Looking ahead, there may be some good news for the drought-stricken West, as El Nino may bring a bit of relief to the region.

"If El Nino comes in and sticks through the wet season, there could be some improvements, and this may cut back energy use for next spring and summer," Pastelok said.

Heading northward, a shortened spring season is expected in the Pacific Northwest, as cool weather remains present in the area for the beginning of spring. Areas surrounding Portland and Seattle will use the most energy in the month of June, as the weather turns quite warm and dry during this period.

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