COUNTY — On Jan., 18, Gov. John R. Kasich issued a statewide energy
emergency declaration in response to the shortage of propane gas. About
six percent of Ohio households use propane for heat, according to census
data. In rural counties like Putnam, propane makes up about 20 percent
of home heating fuel.
The governor’s declaration was made in part
to expedite shipments of propane gas. Motor carriers and drivers with
valid commercial driver licenses who are transporting propane and
heating oil to address transportation issues arising from severe
weather, heavy snowfall, and difficult driving conditions in Ohio, will
be able to drive more hours and more consecutive days than they normally
would as long as they can still do so safely.
Last week the US
Department of Transportation issued hours of service waivers for most of
the country and transports are now traveling to the Carolinas,
Mississippi, Kansas and Texas to bring propane to Ohio.
to the Ohio Propane Gas Association (OPGA), the propane shortage is due
to the diversion of Midwest propane to the Northwest last fall for crop
drying, record setting temperatures in December and January in terms of
cold, ice and snow, a substantial increase in exports and the December
shut down of the Cochin pipeline for repairs. The Cochin pipeline system
is a multi-product pipeline that operates between Fort Saskatchewan,
Alberta and Windsor, Ontario, including five U.S. propane terminals.
don’t think you can look at any one spot. The Farmer’s Almanac said we
were going to have a very cold winter, but I don’t think anybody thought
we were going to have the kind of winter that we’ve had,” observed
Congressman Bob Latta (R-Bowling Green) during a Tuesday telephone call
from Washington, D.C. “This is almost like a perfect storm hitting at
the same time.”
The shortage is driving the cost of propane
upward. U.S. Energy Information Administration data revealed that the
Jan. 20, 2014, Ohio residential cost of propane was $2.999 per gallon
compared to $2.355 per gallon on Jan 21, 2013. According to OPGA’s
President, Craig Wood, and Executive Vice President, David Field, the
rapid increase in the wholesale cost of propane is not the fault of
local marketers, but rather the increased wholesale prices, which are
driving retail prices to between three and five dollars per gallon.
propane gas distributors are feeling the pinch. Most propane gas
companies who serve Putnam County, if not all, are not accepting new
customers at present, instead reserving their supplies of the liquefied
petroleum gas to people they were doing business with prior to the
In an attempt to discover how the shortage is affecting
those companies, their service as well as the price per gallon of
propane being charged to customers as of Jan. 27, the Putnam County
Sentinel reached out to five propane suppliers whose distribution tanks
are most familiar to local home and business owners.Of those who
responded, none are currently accepting new customers.
Propane, a subsidiary of Hancock-Wood Electric, is headquartered in
North Baltimore. Diana Hersch, Prism Propane’s director of marketing and
communications, said the series of events that prompted Kasich’s
declaration did limit Prism’s ability to gain access to propane it
previously contracted to receive via normal Ohio distribution terminals.
Formerly, distribution to Prism was one to four propane gas deliveries
to storage facilities per day, now reduced to one to four per week. Yet
as of Monday, many Prism customers had bills below the average reflected
by the EIA.
“When they sign up for delivery, we contract at a
certain price that they fix,” explained Hersch. “And when we are selling
it at $1.49 per gallon in the summer then they fill up the tank for
that price. Most of our customers had locked in at between $1.69 and
$1.89 a gallon. That’s not going to change.”
What may change,
according to Hersch, is that the shortage may require Prism to attach a
fuel surcharge due to the company’s need to transport propane from
Lisa Cherry of Cherry’s Propane Service noted that the company was charging $3.499 per gallon to current customers on Monday.
“We also offer a five cents per gallon discount if they pay within 10 days,” said Cherry.
Propane services Putnam County customers from the company’s North
Baltimore location. According to customer service at that location,
Suburban Propane customers were billed $4.879 per gallon at the time of
Putnam Oil and Propane, Leipsic, did not wish to
respond to questions in print. Ferrellgas, with an office in Columbus
Grove, could not be reached for comment.
Regardless of the cost, consumers are paying the price to winter the cold and budget for future weather extremes.
of things that we’ve got to make sure of is that this doesn’t happen
again,” said Latta. “We can’t control the weather. As we look at the
transmission, we have to make sure there’s no disruption and the fuel is
out there available for everyone.”
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