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Survey: Fairbanks utility costs keep rising

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Posted: Sunday, November 18, 2012 11:46 pm | Updated: 12:09 pm, Mon Jan 21, 2013.

FAIRBANKS — After having the highest utility costs in the nation in 2011, it looks like Fairbanks is paying even more this year.

Fairbanks paid 143 percent more than the typical U.S. household for its utility costs in the third quarter of 2012, according to a national survey of 304 urban areas in the country. Alaska’s second-largest city had the distinction of paying the highest utility costs last year, with prices about 112 percent above average.

Fairbanks suffers from a dependence on oil for both heating and electric generation. As oil prices have risen, local utility costs have mirrored those increases in the Interior.

The cost of heating oil hit its highest point this year, according to statistics collected by the Fairbanks North Star Borough. The price of No. 1 fuel oil has averaged $4.06 in 2012, about 13 cents more than last year. A decade ago, fuel oil prices averaged $1.21 per gallon in Fairbanks.

The Council for Community and Economic Research, which conducts the nationwide price survey, warns against making direct comparisons with previous results because the mix of participants changes with each survey.

The most-recent survey does, however, indicate that the gap between Fairbanks’ utility rates and the amount paid in other Alaska cities is growing. Juneau had the second-highest rates in the third quarter of 2012, at 69 percent above average, 5 percent higher than in 2011. The rates in Kodiak during that time went from 52 percent higher than the U.S. average to 64 percent above average.

Anchorage, which benefits from a cheap supply of Cook Inlet natural gas, had utility rates that were nearly 6 percent lower than the average U.S. urban household in the third quarter of 2012. Its utility rates were 2 percent below average in 2011.

Those growing utility prices have contributed significantly to a rising cost of living in Fairbanks. Overall costs in Fairbanks were about 40 percent above the U.S. average in the most recent survey, higher than Anchorage (26 percent above average) and Kodiak (30 percent above average).

High housing costs made Juneau the most expensive Alaska city, at 42 percent above average.

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