Milder Late-January Pattern to Aid in Keeping Heating Oil Costs Low for Midwest, Northeast

After subzero temperatures caused a surge in demand for heating oil and natural gas in the Midwest and Northeast last week, moderating temperatures could allow the cost to fall and stay low through the rest of January.

"Weather will not allow prices to go through the roof for natural gas and heating oil in the coming weeks," Expert Long-Range Forecaster Paul Pastelok said.

Temperatures will moderate compared to those felt by the eastern half of the nation last week, when RealFeel temperatures dropped below zero in 41 states between Wednesday and Thursday.

The frigid weather at the start of 2015 drove up demand and prices, the United States Energy Information Administration (EIA) said Thursday.

According to an EIA report, prices at some major locations in the Northeast doubled, tripled or increased five-fold.

In the wake of the frigid air, a milder period, compared to normal, is forecast for the East over the next 10 to 12 days.

"In late January and, at times, into February, it will get cold and people will be turning the heat up," Pastelok said.

"The supply will outweigh the demand through the remainder of January, though. We're not going to see cold that is persistent enough to bring big jumps in prices."

Persistent cold was a major influencer of costs last year, when the polar vortex led to weeks of bitter, arctic air for these regions. Numerous cities set record lows across the Midwest and Northeast.

This January, inventory for both natural gas and heating oil is high, according to Pastelok. This has helped to promote a drop in prices.

"With the coming temperatures, we won't be looking at high usage for two- to three-week stretches," according to Pastelok. "The cold will be coming in intervals."

The mild pattern is good news for those hit hard last year, particularly in the Northeast where oil is predominantly used.

"Your tank won't be going down as fast as you saw it go down in 2014," Pastelok said.