With the price of gas inching up again as oil nears $100 a barrel, it’s no surprise that the U.S. Energy Information Administration predicted an expensive heating season.            

In its annual winter forecast issued yesterday, the Energy Department’s analytical division said consumers will pay 10 percent more to heat their homes. It also added that this winter will be colder than last year’s, but warmer than the average winter over the past 30 years.            

Hardest hit will be homes using heating oil, followed by propane, natural gas and electricity. The administration says households in the Northeast can expect to pay a record $3.06 a gallon for heating oil, up 66 cents from last winter.            

Reuters reported this morning that heating oil futures prices, an indication of wholesale prices, climbed to a $2.62 a gallon, up 50 percent from a year ago.            

Although only 7 percent of U.S. households use heating oil, PM’s Northeastern readers know it’s the fuel for a third of the region’s homes. Maine homeowners use the most heating oil at about 80 percent.            

Meanwhile, the administration says propane users will pay $2.28 a gallon, 26 cents more than last winter. Natural gas users will pay 10 percent more this winter to an average heating season bill of $891.            

Electricity cost should run about 4 percent higher this winter to an average heating season bill of $855.