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      Natural gas prices lowest in ten years

      There's a surplus, and we're feeling the effects. Natural gas prices are lower than they've been in ten years. Our recent mild winter has made people use less gas to heat their homes and businesses. Combine that with abundant new gas supplies and gas reserves, prices have been steadily falling. They fell to only two dollars per million BTU's for the first time since January of 2002, and from $4.59 just last summer.

      "The graph here shows in fact the downward trend of natural gas. If you look carefully at the graph...if you follow the trendline out to next fall, it says natural gas is going to be free. Well, of course, we know that's not going to be the case, but the trend has certainly been going down in the last six months," said David McCowen, key accounts executive at the Negaunee office of SEMCO Energy.

      So what can you expect in the future?

      "Budgeting for next year, I think you could be quite confident that next year's prices will not be any more than this year's prices," said McCowen.

      Even with lower natural gas prices, it still may be a good idea to investigate more efficient ways of heating your home that could save you money in the long term. There are many furnaces on today's market that are extremely gas efficient.

      "The expense that you would spend on such a heating system versus savings that you would get monthly...this system would pay for itself," said Richard Hudson, president of Hudson Mechanical in Harvey.

      Hudson also recommended looking into more efficient water heaters. Tankless water heaters are very highly gas efficient and are becoming more popular.

      If you use another energy source to heat your home or business, switching to natural gas can hold even more benefits than being cheaper.

      "It's better for the environment, it's very efficient, it's plentiful," added Hudson.

      The Marquette area has the second cheapest natural gas prices in Michigan, and it seems like that won't be changing anytime soon.

      "Certainly the future looks very bright for natural gas customers," added McCowen.

      The main factor that could bring prices back up is if we experience a hot summer. People would use more natural gas for air conditioning in their homes and make the prices increase for next winter.

      The NYMEX website offers a quote for future natural gas prices that may be of interest.