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Propane shortage in Midwest states adds additional chill to wild winter weather

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)
January 21st, 2014
Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

Hundreds, if not thousands of people in the rural Midwest and northeast are having a very tough winter, with record low temperatures and sleet and snow. Propane fuel, a standby for heating homes and businesses cut off from the grid, is in short supply. According to the Propane Education & Research Council, more than 14 million families across the U.S. use propane to fuel their furnaces.

LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - Rising to the occasion, Ohio Governor John Kasich declared an energy emergency. He focused on getting state resources to expedite propane gas shipments in order to relieve the tight supplies.

Kasich's declaration permits propane shippers from other states to drive more hours, which "will help get propane companies resupplied so Ohioans who use propane to heat their homes can stay warm," he said.

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The governor followed the lead of officials in 17 other U.S. states who declared energy emergencies and loosened rules for propane transportation from other states. The majority of these will remain in effect until the end of January.

Residents in these states are also being urged to cut down on propane usage since supplies are limited. "Propane customers in the Upper Peninsula should use their propane supplies wisely in the coming weeks by reducing usage and avoiding energy waste,\" Michigan Public Service Commission Chairman John Quackenbush told radio journalists this week.

In addition to homes, it's estimated that over one million businesses across the U.S. rely on propane.

The shortage of propane began with the U.S. Midwest began the cold season with a propane deficit. A greater than usual amount of propane was used in November to dry corn crops during a rain-soaked harvest, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration.

"Propane prices in the Midwest will likely need to rise to keep propane in the region," according to the EIA.

Average propane prices across the nation are now 58 cents per gallon higher than the same period last year, EIA reported.

Winter weather budgets have been left stricken in a large portion of the country.

In addition to a declaration expediting fuel, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie also relaxed rules pertaining to salt deliveries "due to multiple winter events that have depleted stockpiles of rock salt needed to treat roadways surfaces." However -- when snow is accompanied by sub-zero temperatures, salt freezes and is ineffective.

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