Propane Shortage, Home Energy Costs Increasing - ABC5 News Des Moines, IA

Propane Shortage, Home Energy Costs Increasing

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By: Claire Powell


Iowa, along with many Midwestern states, are struggling with a propane shortage and increasing energy costs.

For people who use propane, they could see their prices triple.

A late corn harvest and persistent cold spells are causing the demand to rise. On top of that, the Cochin pipeline, which provides 40% of the product used by Minnesota suppliers, was shut down for repairs. 

Last week, Iowa's propane average was $1.99 and yesterday's report showed propane increasing to $2.60. However, expert Harold Hommes with Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship, said that price is invalid.

In a matter of 24 hours, the price has jumped again.

"Prices have moved into an area that I think's fair to say "unchartered"," said Hommes.

In some places, propane is over $3.00 and climbing.

"We have a lot of demand out there and right now we're struggling to keep up with the supply in Iowa," said Hommes.

At Iowa propane centers the wait for trucks to fill up is anywhere between 6-12 hours. 

The continued cold snaps have people using more than ever.

"We have a big demand pull, usage is going to be up in a raw sense and prices are going to be considerably up. People are going to have a whammy and a surprise when they see their bill from the local electric cooperative or local propane delivery company," said Hommes.

That demand has people asking for help from places like The Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program. Over 85,000 Iowa households had heating assistance benefits in 2013 and Gerry McKim says this year, there will be more. 

"We're seeing record amounts of houses owing record amounts of money," said Gerry McKim, Bureau of Energy Assistance and LIHEAP.

A record-setting $34.8 million in past due accounts in December of 2013, up 20% from 2012.

"I think its outrageous! I don't see how hardly anyone, except for the people in my program, or how just middle class folks are going to have trouble affording it," said McKim.  

The Iowa Propane Gas Association said they're working with the U.S. Department of Energy on what's becoming an emergency situation for many states.

Homess said by next week propane could be in the $3.50-$4.00 range.

MidAmerian said they also have a MidAmerican Energy Budget Billing program along with a number for concerned customers to call, 1-888-427-5632. 

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