[r74] Overcoming the propane shortage (2/7/2014)

Friday, February 7, 2014

Start Date: 2/7/2014 Start Time: 8:00 AM
End Date: 2/7/2014 End Time: 8:00 AM
Overcoming the propane shortage

Because of our harsh winter, which has affected all of us throughout Indiana and the Midwest in general, our state is facing a real propane crisis. I have been getting a number of calls regarding this shortage and how it is affecting our community. Last week, the governor held a press conference with Lt. Governor Ellspermann and various professionals in the agriculture, housing and energy industries. They discussed some actions that are going to be taken to lessen the burden that Hoosiers across the state are facing in heating their homes and agriculture facilities.
The critical propane shortage comes from the combination of two separate problems—an abnormally wet harvest season created a larger demand of propane to operate grain dryers, and one of the coldest months Indiana has ever experienced is putting pressures on propane suppliers in large amounts. The Energy Information Agency estimates that propane in Indiana could cost upwards of $5 a gallon this season—the typical price for this time of year is $2.50.

As of Wednesday, Governor Pence extended the emergency proclamation that eases restrictions on the hours of service for propane transporters until March 1. He declared an energy emergency and has suspended limitations on divisible loads for propane suppliers as well. The Indiana Department of Transportation and Department of Revenue have been instructed to work with the Indiana Motor Truck Association to expedite any permit applications and waive any fees on oversized or overweight loads that are carrying propane. 

There was also a $5 million increase in funds for the Low Income Housing Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP). For those who qualify for LIHEAP, this will increase benefits from $400 to $500 through March.

But, regardless of the efforts of the governor’s office, this is a problem that will be dealt with town by town, community by community. About 10 percent of Indiana homes are heated with propane—meaning some 500,000 Hoosiers could see a substantial increase in heating bills soon.

So, I’m asking you to be mindful of this shortage over the coming months, and the effect it will have on some people’s day-to-day activities. Conserve energy where you can, especially if your home is heated with propane. If you have neighbors with propane heating, now is the time to exercise good Hoosier hospitality. If you have excess propane, consider selling or crediting it back to ease the burden on suppliers. I encourage you to check with those around them, particularly vulnerable groups like low-income families and the elderly.

If you know of someone in dire need, tell them to call 211, a statewide number that can get them in touch with the nearest supplier. This number is also good to call if you feel you’ve been a victim of price gouging in regards to propane. Anyone who thinks they might qualify for LIHEAP and is looking for more information on eligibility should call 1-800-872-0371. We will get through this, and remember, warmer weather is ahead!