Prices for natural gas, the most common way to heat homes and a leading fuel source for generating electricity, have surged more than 180% over the past 12 months to $5.90 per million British thermal units. Natural gas hasn’t been this expensive since February 2014.

The risk is that an early winter or extremely cold fall temperatures will force households to crank up the heat. That would further shrink the nation’s below-average stockpiles of natural gas and could lift prices even higher.

“If we get an early frost, it could get ugly. It could get ugly fast,” said Robert Yawger, director of energy futures at Mizuho Securities.

The inflation surge is forcing the Federal Reserve to consider curtailing its ongoing support of the economy and leading some moderate lawmakers to question the need for the White House’s ambitious spending plans. Meanwhile the energy crunch is making global investors nervous about economic growth and high…

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