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1/30/2014 Valley experiencing severe gas pains: Propane prices spike due to transportation woes, severe cold in the Midwest

In Westcliffe this week, rumors swirled of exceedingly high propane prices. Hearing of LPG priced at $5 to $6 a gallon, the Tribune set out to learn the truth of this tale.  Information received from local propane companies indeed confirms the cost of propane has at least doubled.    
As of Tuesday, January 28, local LPG provider, Norup, has priced propane at $4 a gallon.  According to Darrell Niles, “even in the winter months, propane never got as high as $2.50. The highest I remember it being is $2.20. It has more than doubled in the past few months, going from $1.80 to $4.00 a gallon.”  
At Ennx, where propane is selling for $3.75 a gallon, an employee there stated, “gas prices are going up every blooming day.” Mar-Gas has set its price on $3.28 a gallon, while San Isabel has it set at $4.30.  So, though the Tribune did not uncover $5 to $6 a gallon costs, it’s clear gas prices have increased and, according to sources, may continue to mushroom.
Jim Wallace of San Isabel Propane discussed the issue facing propane companies and users. “It’s a national propane shortage,” he said. “Right now it’s difficult to get propane.” He mentions the difficulty is caused by a three-pronged source.
“First, last year farmers in the Midwest had a bumper grain crop that they cut late in a wet season.  They used a lot of propane to dry the harvest. Secondly, exports on propane are up and, third, recent massive winter storms in the Midwest caught a lot of people low on propane.”
Wallace notes that a missive he received from the National Propane Association indicated it “was working at all levels to seek relief” for propane users. He also stated the Colorado Propane Gas Association, or CPGA, was seeking to secure from the Department of Transportation an hours and service waiver for propane tanker drivers.  
According to federal law, commercial drivers are limited to a certain amount of hours they can be on the road. The waiver will ensure tanker drivers have more drive time and work hours to get LPG to customers.
“We couldn’t get our supply in Conway, Kansas,” Wallace explained.  “So that means we have to drive farther to get it.  For gas companies to meet demand, a driver might have to drive 12 hours to get propane to be able to supply the gas company’s clientele.  So the waiver will help out both propane businesses and customers until the price of propane goes down.”
Already the Department of Transportation has issued an emergency declaration that allows longer driving times and working hours for tanker drivers in ten midwest states.  Moreover, 33 states, along with Iowa and Minnesota, have declared an “energy emergency,” since prices have soared 17 percent higher from a year ago.  In the United States, 12 million people use propane, so a significant population, including companies and customers in Westcliffe, are adversely affected by the spike in price.
“We sent out a letter to our customers asking them to conserve propane,” Wallace said.  “ We also included in the letter energy-saving tips.  We are fully committed to getting our customers through this difficult time – and we can’t let anyone go without propane since people need heat.”
As for the future, Wallace said, “I hope it gets better, but it depends on the weather in the Midwest.”
– Cyn Williams