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Propane Shortage Causes Prices To Increase

Supply problems in several states where propane is a crucial heating source have prompted governors and other officials to take action against vendors, investigate claims of price gouging and increase aid to low-income customers.

“It is just hard for people to make it now as it is,” says Vernon Case of Henderson County.

Case found himself on Thursday paying 40 cents more per gallon than he did a week ago.

Across North Carolina, propane has gone up as much as $1 per gallon.

“And because of that, we are seeing more new clients coming our way," said Capt. Chris Thornhill of the Salvation Army in Hendersonville.

Semi-Truck Hauling Propane

Capt. Thornhill says the agency has worked to get the homes of more than 40 families heated this month, which is double the number of clients they served during the same time, last year.

Interfaith Assistance Ministry is also seeing an increase need. This month, the non-profit has given out nearly $25,000 in heating funds.

“It is more stressful than mind-boggling,” said IAM Executive Director David Cook.

The propane drain coincides with extreme cold temperatures in several Midwestern and Southern states where residents and business owners are struggling to keep heating tanks filled due to increased costs or supply cut-offs.

Supplies of propane were depleted by a late harvest that increased demand from farmers who needed to dry large amounts of grain before storage.

Kentucky's attorney general was granted an injunction against a major propane supplier that had stopped delivering to commercial customers in several states. And in Missouri, lawmakers are asking the Justice Department to investigate rising prices in that state.

The propane industry says it is working around the clock to get propane from storage and production facilities to customers who need it. Industry leaders say they are also coordinating with the Energy Department to acknowledge that emergency conditions could be forming in regions hit the hardest.A release from the Propane Education & Research Council states keeping families and businesses safe and warm is the industry’s first priority

The PERC offers the following reminders to help conserve fuel and ensure your next delivery: Call to schedule a delivery when your tank is 35 percent full. Doing so should give the propane

retailer enough time to reach you before you run out of gas.

Use energy wisely and conserve propane when you can.

Keep a path to your propane tank clear. Doing so helps propane delivery drivers get to your tank easily, refill it quickly, and get to the next home.

Leave the grill outside. Never bring outdoor grills inside for heating or cooking. They are made for outdoor use only; if brought indoors they pose a safety risk.

(The Associated Press contributed to this report.)

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