If you're like most people in Lincoln, you've probably seen natural gas bills this winter that are among the highest you've ever encountered.
I wrote a story about two months ago that chronicled the sky-high Black Hills Energy bills people received for December and their reaction to them.
Shortly after that, I started hearing from customers questioning why Black Hills was reporting continuing increases in the cost of natural gas while sources that track prices were reporting a decline.
For example, Black Hills said at the time that what it was charging customers for natural gas in January was 14% higher than what it was in December.
However, according to price data published by the Energy Information Administration, daily spot prices for natural gas declined from has high as $7.15 per million British thermal units right before Christmas to less than $3 per BTU by the end of January.
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The issue is that Black Hills plans its gas costs about a month in advance. So January prices charged to customers were actually reflective of December prices.
The good news is that February prices dropped nearly 15% and March prices dropped another 20%.
I looked at my own bills for December, January and February and noticed a trend of falling prices. For December, I paid 92 cents per therm, or 100,000 BTUs. That number went up to $1.04 for January but dropped to 90 cents in February and about 72 cents this month.
There also are other factors driving the size of your bill. There's the polar vortex charge from the severe cold snap in February 2021, which sent natural gas prices soaring. That cost me $30 for December, $24 for January and nearly $20 for February. You also pay city and state sales taxes on your bill, and those are, of course, higher when your bill is higher.
The good news is that if you signed up for Black Hills' Annual Price Option, you've saved a little bit of money over the past few months, since that price was set at about 86 cents.
Black Hills, like other gas and electric utilities got burned two years ago during the brutal February cold snap and wound up paying hundreds of millions of dollars extra for gas on the spot market when prices soared.
Brandy Johnson, a company spokeswoman, said in an email that it employs a strategy that focuses on "maintaining reliable supply that our customers depend on, price risk mitigation, cost stabilization through a diverse supply portfolio, and maintain(ing) a portfolio that is flexible enough to balance changes in forecasted “normal” requirements, higher demand (weather) events, warmer-than-typical weather, etc."
"For those reasons, our plans can’t solely rely on any one approach, like spot prices. Our portfolio includes financial hedging, physical baseload purchases, storage inventory, peaking supply and daily purchases (when needed)."
The 'N' stands for 'not so much'
Airbnb says its female hosts in Nebraska made $11 million last year.
That sounds like a lot of money, although the vacation home rental company did not provide data from previous years to show if that's an increase.
What it did provide, though, is the amounts women hosts in all the other states made, and it shows that Nebraska is not a popular state for vacation rentals.
That $11 million ranked second to last, better only than North Dakota. Kansas was only slightly better at $12 million, while Iowa women brought in $16.6 million. Among bordering states, Colorado was by far the best, with $275 million earned by female hosts. Missouri was second with $65 million, followed by South Dakota, at $19 million. Surprisingly, at least to me, Wyoming only came in at $12.5 million.
California was No. 1, with $1.3 billion earned by women hosts, with Florida coming in second at $1 billion.
Listing the lists
Regular readers of this column know I like to end it with a rundown of recent rankings of Lincoln and/or Nebraska in national reports. The latest:
* Fourth best state to comfortably retire (NetCredit)
Matt Olberding's favorite stories from 2022
Matt Olberding covered a wide variety of subjects in 2022. Here are five stories about topics he thinks were most important: Casinos, the Lincoln Airport, housing in Lincoln, COVID-19 and drought.
The first state-licensed in Nebraska opened in Lincoln in September, and this story examined the potential tax money it could generate.
Business or leisure? Lincoln Airport will likely need to shift focus to attract airlines, passengers
After losing Delta Airlines, Lincoln Airport officials discussed how they would need to change their focus from business to leisure travel.
Housing boomed in Lincoln this year, especially downtown. Plans for a 22-story building would be one of the biggest projects in history.
Pandemic sent Nebraska patients, providers from exam room to computer platform. What's next for telehealth?
The COVID-19 pandemic has led to many changes in health care in Nebraska, one of which is the increased use of telehealth.
This story from April talked about how bad drought could get in Nebraska. News flash: It got pretty bad.
Reach the writer at 402-473-2647 or email@example.com.
On Twitter @LincolnBizBuzz.