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July 23, 2014

Propane production at record high; Minnesota shortage continues

The propane shortage affecting Minnesota and other states in the upper Midwest appears to be regional in scope.

The Forum News Service reports while thousands of Minnesotans are not able to buy enough propane to heat their homes and businesses the country has more of the fuel than ever before.

The report says the propane just is not where it needs to be.

The Forum reports the propane council announced it will investigate what caused the shortage and what can be done to stop it from happening again.

“At a time when U.S. propane production is at an all-time high, the Propane Education and Research Council wants to know what can be done to ensure that propane can be quickly and affordably put to use here at home, even during times of extreme weather,” the council said in a statement.

Other than high demand because of cold weather, the Forum reports the council believes transportation problems and rising propane exports are the other causes of the shortage.

The cold temperatures are creating higher demand making it difficult for suppliers to catch up.

Experts say with temperatures hovering around zero suppliers who started the winter with lower-than-usual levels of the fuel, have been unable to catch up with demand, according to the Star Tribune.

Roger Leider, executive director of the Minnesota Propane Association, told the Star Tribune, “That’s the driving factor. We haven’t been able to catch a break.”

The newspaper says temperatures are expected to remain below normal through at least next week.

Government leaders have been taking steps to improve the situation.

Texas Gov. Rick Perry said this week that he would suspend trucking rules that restricted transportation of propane from Texas to areas of the north experiencing shortages and high prices.

Gov. Mark Dayton has been encouraging railroads to make more cars available to transport propane, according to the Forum News Service.

PERC made several other recommendations to alleviate the shortage.

   •   Working with transportation partners to ensure all available transport tankers, delivery trucks, railcars, barges, and pipelines prioritize propane deliveries.
•   Moving international supplies of propane by ships to ports in the Northeast.
•   Reaching out to state and federal authorities to open up more transportation options for propane, including extending hours-of-service exemptions that allow drivers to move propane more freely, and easing frost laws that limit a truck’s maximum weight (a restriction that others such as trash trucks are exempt from already).
•   Urging governors in affected states to consider declaring an Economic Injury Disaster that would trigger loan programs to enable propane retailers to replenish propane supplies.
•   Coordinating with the Energy Department to acknowledge that emergency conditions could be forming in regions hit the hardest, particularly in the upper Midwest.