Aug 24, 2022 - Economy

Europe's energy crisis is forcing up the price of U.S. natural gas

Illustration of pipes shaped like a dollar sign.

Illustration: Maura Losch/Axios

Europe's natural gas crisis is spilling into American markets.

Driving the news: U.S. natural gas prices briefly hurdled $10 per million British thermal units (BTUs) on Tuesday, the highest since 2008. They are up more than 150% this year.

The move comes amid an astounding rise in European natural gas prices, as a once-unthinkable cessation of Russian supplies to the continent appears imminent.

  • European natural gas costs are more than 10 times higher than last year's level, putting immense pressure on companies, consumers and governments.

Why it matters: High prices in Europe are also affecting the U.S. market, and will almost certainly push electric and heating bills higher.

How it works: With less Russian gas available, Europe is now competing on the global market for supplies, which is pushing up prices worldwide.

Winners: U.S. gas producers are sitting pretty. Their stock prices have been among the best-performing in the market over the last month.

  • Devon Energy, for example, is up 28% over the last month.
  • ConocoPhillips is up 22%.

Losers: Consumers, who will almost certainly see their utility and/or heating bills rise sooner or later.

  • That impact could be delayed for those whose power is supplied by regulated utilities. These companies typically have to apply to a public commission for approvals of rate increases every few years.

What they're saying: Those who rely on natural gas for their heat — about half the homes in America — could feel the pinch sooner, says Joshua Rhodes, an energy consultant and research associate studying energy systems at the University at Texas, Austin.

  • "In general, consumers feel natural gas prices fastest on their heating bills,” Rhodes said.

What we're watching: The political impact of heating bills heading into the fall and winter, which could reinvigorate voter angst about rising costs of living, despite progress elsewhere on inflation.

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