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Propane shortage causing frustrations and crisis across the region

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The continued propane shortage is frustrating Minnesota Farmer's Union president, Doug Peterson.

KSTP reports that Peterson wants his questions answered about the shortage.

"Why did it become so expensive, and who is charging it, and why are they charging it because they can? Peterson asked while speaking to reporters at KSTP.

According to the report, Peterson said a short term solution may be on its way. He believes a warmer February could bring prices back down to normal, but he said he isn't just concerned about this year.

Peterson told KSTP he thinks too much propane was exported. However, Roger Leider, President of the Minnesota Propane Association, maintains the exports are a normal part of the process. According to KSTP, Leider said when you add a wet farming season and a brutally cold winter to the mix, the demand simply outran supply.

One of the big challenges next year is the loss of the Cochin Pipeline. It is responsible for up to 40 percent of Minnesota's propane, and next year it won't be available.

Leider told KSTP that it wouldn't necessarily mean higher propane prices, but it would affect how the fuel is delivered and stored in Minnesota.

The combination of the frigid temperatures and the propane shortage has hit some of the American Indian reservations very hard.

The Associated Press reported 61-year-old Debbie Dogskin died while house-sitting for a friend in a rundown mobile home with an empty propane tank, on the Standing Rock Reservation.

According to the AP, preliminary autopsy results did not identify a cause of death, but Sioux County Sheriff Frank Landeis said he believes Dogskin froze to death. Landeis said the temperature inside the house was the same as it was outside – 1 below zero.

The report indicated Dogskin's family claimed she had taken off some clothing a symptom of the altered state of mind a person suffers in the advanced stages of hypothermia. Toxicology reports are not expected for six to eight weeks, according to the AP.

According to a report in the Winona Daily News, some homes and businesses are turning to alternatives to stay warm. While roughly 70 percent of the homes in Minnesota and Wisconsin heat with natural gas homes and businesses in rural areas largely depend on propane or fuel oil.

The newspaper reports Hokah Hardware has a different idea to heat. The hardware store has turned to wood chips to heat the store, and while they have spent more this year because of the cold, the newspaper reports the store is saving a lot of money over fuel oil or propane.

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