Written by Amanda Pazornik, CNN
If you’re like us, paying for winter heating can be a slippery slope.
Most of us know someone who’s spent less time outside this year, thanks to the record-breaking cold temperatures across the U.S.
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But this winter has also been significant for the economic impact of the heating bills. Of the 60 million Americans who rely on heating assistance for their homes, 20% receive subsidies that are set to expire in 2019.
The number of households in severe need, often those that are already struggling with out-of-pocket energy costs, is projected to increase by 25 million between now and 2022, according to the US Department of Energy.
And that’s just the tip of the iceberg. The government’s entire heating assistance program is set to expire — and will not be renewed if no action is taken by Congress.
Read more: America’s most expensive homes
While rising energy prices are the No. 1 contributor to financial hardship, the current U.S. energy bill is larger than at any time since the Great Depression.
Read more: On average, you could pay $27,000 for a house in New York
But can you blame our heating bills?
In 2018, the average price of natural gas climbed to $3.63 per million British thermal units, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration . Meanwhile, fuel oil reached $2.53 per million BTUs, the largest monthly price increase since January 2016, and natural gas topped the $3 level for the first time since November 2014.
Even with a big chunk of money set aside in the national budget, Congress will have to expand the agency’s $2.4 billion energy assistance program over the next five years — plus new initiatives.
Not everyone has that problem, but the U.S. isn’t alone in dealing with a dramatic price spike. European countries including Italy, the U.K. and France have experienced significant increases as well.
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In Asia, most of the energy price increase stems from costs associated with being electric vehicles, and the trend is expected to continue into 2019 and 2020, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration.
Thankfully, some of this pain has been alleviated, or at least put off. The energy crisis experienced by the residents of Puerto Rico this winter is notable because, even after the storm hit, residents were able to use their installed generators at cheaper costs than they are currently.
Expo Calexico Credit: Brian Olney
The continued drought and hunger issues in California is also due to the ability to lessen energy costs through increased production.
The good news? Former Vice President Joe Biden is getting right back to work, this time as a White House commission on climate change.
The commission will be tasked with recommending how government and businesses can help mitigate the impact of climate change on all people, communities and business across the United States.
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The American Energy Council first proposed the creation of a climate commission last summer, after President Donald Trump pulled the U.S. out of the Paris climate agreement.
Secretary of Energy Rick Perry will serve as chair of the commission, with Biden as an honorary co-chairman.
“I’m so confident this commission will have a unique and powerful voice that will guide our country in the fight against this most serious of threats, and I’m honored to play such a key role in it,” Biden said in a statement.