The sharp rise in energy prices in 2004 put less strain on household finances than might have been expected because American homes built in the past few years are nearly twice as energy-efficient as a typical house built in the 1960s, according to an analysis by Freddie Mac economists."Crude oil prices have pulled back from a peak of $55.23 per barrel this past October, but as the nation enters its coldest season, oil prices are still considerably higher than the $30 a barrel of West Texas crude cost a year ago," said Frank Nothaft, Freddie Mac's chief economist. "And while we are certainly feeling the increase in oil prices at the gas pump and maybe even in our heating bills, the cost to families would be much greater if not for improvements in home energy efficiency." According to data analyzed by Freddie Mac from the American Housing Survey, fuel costs as a percentage of home value totaled about 0.8% from 2000 to 2003, versus about 1.8% before 1960 and an average of 1.3% in the oil-shock decade of the 1970s. Freddie Mac can be found online at http://www.freddiemac.com.

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