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As others see it: Propane supply a critical issue

West Central Tribune

The propane situation in Minnesota has reached a crisis point.

More than 250,000 homes, businesses and farm operations across Minnesota depend on propane for heating purposes. Gov. Mark Dayton was correct to skip a promotion trip to the Super Bowl to focus on this growing crisis.

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A supply shortage combined with increased demand due to two significant cold waves across Minnesota and other northern tier states have significantly spiked propane prices into the $4 or higher range.

Propane supplies across the nation were first crunched last year due to a late fall causing farmers to dry a larger amount of grain before storage. Then the December and January cold waves increased propane demand from Minnesota to southern states.

States are moving to address the crisis. Minnesota set up a public hotline Thursday to help consumers and businesses address shortages. Dozens of states have loosened transportation rules to allow additional hours for trucks hauling propane for deliveries. Some officials are calling on railroads to help increase propane shipments into the region as well.

Consumers can also take measures to help conserve propane wherever possible. They can use alternate heat sources, such as electric heaters, liquid fuel heaters, kerosene or wood/pellet burning. However, use appropriate caution and safety procedures when utilizing alternative heating sources.

This crisis is a real issue. It will take all efforts to address the supply issue, especially if another Arctic polar plunge occurs in February or March.