3 To Know: Gas prices are down but projected to rise again, more

Marco Eagle

1. Gas prices are down but projected to rise again. How much will gas cost in 2023?

Filling up your car or truck will likely cost less in 2023 than it did in 2022.

The lowest expected prices for gas will come in February, with a national average of $2.99 for a gallon of regular unleaded gasoline, fuel-savings app GasBuddy forecasts. But prices could hit $4 for a gallon of gas during the peak of travel season next summer, the company said in a forecast released Wednesday.

File: Wawa gas station.

After a turbulent year when gas prices hit a record-high national average of $5 per gallon, costs dropped to about $3.06 per gallon this week, tweeted Patrick De Haan, head of petroleum analysis at GasBuddy, on Tuesday. The tech company's app provides real-time gas price information for more than 150,000 gas stations nationwide.

Twenty-six states currently have gas prices below $3 per gallon, GasBuddy says.

That could soon change. GasBuddy expects average gas prices in June to rise to between $3.79 and $4.19 as the summer travel season kicks in, the company said. The average cost per gallon could go as high as $4.25 per gallon in August then drop back down closer to $3 a gallon by year's end. Mike Snider/USA Today

MORE3 To Do: ‘I’ll Eat You Last,’ ‘Mud Row’ and more

ANDSWFLA To Do List: Farmers’ markets, ‘A Little Night Music’ and more

ALSOAs COVID turns 3, experts worry where the next pandemic will come from – and if we'll be ready

2. FPL reliance on natural gas means customers exposed to volatile market

Over the decades, the Sunshine State’s largest electric utility has moved away from using coal and oil to fuel its power plants. Florida Power & Light has touted the changeover, noting it is no longer in need of imported oil and that its power plants burn cleaner fuels.

Yet as FPL relied more and more on natural gas, customers became less shielded from the whims of the fossil fuel market.

While natural gas prices have been relatively stable for the better part of a decade, they have been on the rise since the summer of 2020.

FPL logo

That exposure certainly played out this year since utilities pass on the cost of fuel to their customers on their monthly bills. FPL is seeking to recoup about $2 billion in natural gas fuel costs it did not recover from customers in 2022 because of unpredictable market conditions.

As it stands, an FPL customer who uses 1,000 kilowatt hours of electricity will be charged $125.39 in January, thanks to one-month savings from the federal Inflation Reduction Act, and then $129.59 in February. A northwest Florida customer in the former Gulf Power region will be charged $155.60 in January and $159.81 in February. Hannah Morse/Palm Beach Post

3. Sugar cane burn season still blankets Glades with smoke after study showing it kills people

When the pre-harvest sugar cane burning season began on Oct. 3 with fires across 160 acres of Glades land, the Florida Department of Agriculture, which authorizes the blazes, proclaimed the day the start of “Florida Climate Week.”  

It was perhaps an unintentionally ironic start of eight months every year that will see more than 8,000 fires across at least 300,000 acres of agricultural land send toxic smoke and ash into the air.  

Smoke form cane burns near State Road 80 in central Palm Beach County on Friday, December 18, 2020.

Setting fields of sugar cane on fire to burn off the plants’ unused outer layer and facilitate harvesting has been phased out in other countries on evidence that it not only contributes to climate change but also harms the health of workers and residents. It has been challenged in South Florida where the soot and pollution it produces predominately affect the Palm Beach County’s most impoverished.

This season is the first to be authorized in the face of scientific findings that smoke from each burning season in the Glades harms people exposed to it. 

The findings, from a study led by Florida State University researchers, relied on multiple sources of data to track exposure to the smoke and rates of death across South Florida from illnesses linked to fine particle pollution released by the fires from 2008 to 2018. 

The researchers concluded that two to three people die prematurely each year because of their exposure to sugar cane fires. 

U.S. Sugar consultant Randall Miller called the study’s conclusions “meritless and without proof.” Miller, a former air quality supervisor for the Palm Beach County Health Department, added that the scientists from FSU, Washington State University and England’s Sheffield University who carried out the study were “biased.” 

The FSU study findings, however, are in line with those from studies in other countries that have linked sugar cane fires to greenhouse gas emissions. The studies led Brazil to phase out burning and use the outer leaves to enrich the soil and generate renewable energy. Antigone Barton/Palm Beach Post

MOREBookworm: The best books of 2022

ANDThe good, bad and the ugly: The top stories of 2022

ALSO'Watts for Dinner': The best dishes of 2022