Propane gas. It’s how thousands of rural DeKalb County residents heat their homes. Normally, it’s a fairly cost-effective way to do just that. But now, in the midst of another round of brutally cold temperatures, there is news of a propane shortage in our area. That shortage is already causing a dramatic spike in prices.
The shortage of propane in the nation’s Midwest comes as a result of several events: namely, record-breaking cold at the start of January, when stocks were already low after large amounts of propane were used to dry out a bumper wet corn harvest last fall.
A pipeline outage during most of December exacerbated the situation, and this week’s freezing weather, expected to last to the end of the month, has heightened the situation.
Apparently, there is no shortage of propane in the United States. In fact, the increase in fracking has produced a surplus. Producers are currently exporting propane to other countries where they get a higher price than in the U.S.. The problem is that there isn’t enough in the county’s Midwest.
Truckers hauling propane in the Midwest either have to wait hours in long lines to fill up their tankers or they have to drive to other states in order to fill up a load. The scramble triggered the Illinois Department of Transportation in December to exempt propane drivers from rules governing how long they can be on the road.
All the while prices have soared. Propane heading for the Midwest is priced against supplies in the hub in Conway, Kansas. Prices there reached almost $5 a gallon on Thursday, compared with the pre-freeze price of around $1.75. Customers are already reporting experiencing rationed deliveries and spiked prices.
If you use propane to heat your home, you should call your supplier earlier than normal, when your tank gets down to 20 percent or so, because it could take a few days before they can make a delivery.
Other things you can do to conserve and extend your fuel supply:
- Lower your thermostat and wear more layers of clothing
- Seal cracks and holes in outside walls and foundations. Check where cables (TV, phone) and pipes enter the house.
- Ensure adequate insulation in walls, attics and crawl spaces
- Cover windows in plastic
- If you use an alternative heat source (space heater, wood stove, etc.), ensure proper ventilation and care are used.