Prices of Natural Gas Avoid Volatility of Past Winters
Freezing temperatures are creating near-record demand for natural gas in the U.S. as shivering Americans turn up the heat and plug in their electric blankets.
Natural-gas prices have jumped in response, topping $5 per million British thermal units for the first time since 2010 as fuel has been pulled from underground storage vaults to keep furnaces running and electric utilities humming.
But compared with past cold snaps, such as in 2000, the price surge has been muted, according to utilities and other big gas users.
That is good news for businesses and consumers. Manufacturers that consume large amounts of the fuel—steelmakers, for example—say they have trouble planning for sharp price changes. And homeowners on fixed incomes can be hit especially hard when utilities raise prices.
In the short term, higher prices help gas drillers, many of which have been losing money on wells in a supply glut. Over the long term, though, stable prices attract demand for gas from power companies, trucking firms and...