Propane Shortages Threaten Heartland in Winter Freeze

Record cold temperatures have caused a spike in demand as supplies run low

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The deep freeze that has settled over the United States in recent weeks has created an energy emergency across much of the Midwest and Northeast, where supplies of the vital heating fuel propane are running dangerously low.

Gov. Terry Branstad of Iowa called on President Obama Monday to loosen regulations that limit propane shipments, like restrictions on commercial truck drivers, CNN Money reports.

“Leadership is needed to ensure that the necessary propane fuel is available for our fellow citizens to heat their homes, livestock producers to warm their animals, and businesses to fuel their operations,” Branstad said in a written statement.

Governors across the region have taken action to accelerate shipments of propane, which is used as a primary heating fuel in about 6 million households in the U.S., particularly in rural areas.

According to the Energy Information Administration, propane prices have climbed more than 17 percent from a year ago. The supply crunch has many factors behind it: bottlenecks in the distribution network; increased propane exports, which doubled from 2012 to 2013; and large crop yields, which are dried using the fuel. But the cold snap in recent weeks has worsened the shortfall.

“Certainly the plunging temperatures that have just hung around and continue to hit the country,” have caused a spike in demand, said Roy Willis, CEO of the Propane Education and Research Council.

Sen. Chuck Grassley (R—Iowa) has called on the Federal Trade Commission to look into the situation. “The recent propane supply shortage and price increases are causing hardship for the many rural Iowa families that use propane to heat their homes,” Grassley said. “I’m asking the agency that oversees business practices to look at the propane situation and see whether the price increases are legitimate or manipulated in any way to consumers’ detriment.”

[CNN Money]

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