WISCONSIN (WKOW)-- More than 250,000 Wisconsinites are feeling the effects of a propane shortage in the Midwest. Experts say nine other states in the Midwest, 14 on the east coast and nine in the southern part of the country are also experiencing short supplies.
With yet another cold streak heading our way propane customers are concerned about staying warm. Customers who have been calling around say the quotes range from $3.99 to $5.99 a gallon with a possibility of reaching $6.99 on Monday. It's more than 300% higher than the price last month which averaged just under $2.00 a gallon.
"I would not be surprised if you see some businesses look at selling or closing their doors depending on how bad it gets, if it continues," Crawford Oil and Propane Vice President Jonathan Crawford says. "Cost for most businesses has exceeded $5.00 a gallon. That's our cost not retail."
But how did the shortage actually start? Suppliers say an increase in exporting this Summer caused the propane reserves to be low going into the Winter. Plus the wet Fall caused farmers to use more propane to dry their corn. On top of that a major pipeline closed and the Winter started out with one of the most extreme cold snaps in recent memory.
On Monday, representatives from Crawford Oil and Propane and other suppliers across the state plan to meet with Governor Scott Walker to try to come up with ways to get through this shortage. Members say their main goal is to ensure that all Wisconsinites stay warm during the cold days ahead.
"I've issued an executive order that allows for truckers who deliver propane to Wisconsin to drive longer hours," Governor Walker says. "Our state department of transportation has authorized a weight limit relief order for vehicles transporting energy in the state. We're hoping it will increase the amount of propane carried in a single trip."
Suppliers say some customers could see their monthly heating bill jump to more than a thousand dollars. It all depends on how long the shortage lasts.
"If it does last the rest of the Winter, hold onto your seats. I think it's going to be a pretty big fall out if you're going to see that happen," Crawford says. "I'm optimistic that these recent efforts by state and federal politicians and trade groups will be able to solve this problem."
Emergency management officials are urging propane users to consider alternative methods for staying warm. Options include wood stoves, electric space heaters and fireplaces. Officials are also asking people to check in with their neighbors to see if they still have heat during this upcoming cold snap.
To help offset the cost of propane, heating experts say turning your thermostat down a few degrees will lead to big savings at the end of the month. They also suggest dressing in layers at night when you go to bed so you can turn down the heat even lower while you sleep.
Experts warn propane users to not hook up smaller propane tanks to your furnace during the shortage. While it's tempting to use some of the leftover propane in the tank attached to your grill or space heater, a simple mistake could lead to an explosion in your home.
Some families may qualify for energy assistance under the Wisconsin Home Energy Assistance Program. These services are provided locally through county social services, private non-profits and government agencies. For more information on how to apply visit their website at www.homeenergyplus.wi.gov/ or call 1-866-HEATWIS (432-8947)
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