Through the cold Wisconsin months, soaring propane prices across the state led to a heavy burden on many families and businesses in the northern region of Wisconsin, but things are looking up as propane prices drop.
According to the U.S Energy Information Association (EIA), propane prices reached their peak in early February at almost $6 per gallon. As prices dropped to $3.68 per gallon as of Feb. 10, it appears the brunt of the shortage is over.
One of the main factors behind the decreased supply and increased price of propane was the extreme cold America’s Midwest has seen this winter.
According to the National Weather Service, the historical average temperature during the months of January and February is 15 to 20 degrees Fahrenheit, compared to this winter’s average at 5 degrees. This led to an outward shift in demand for propane due to the need for consumers to use more heating sources.
The propane shortage is a weather-driven issue, Roy Willis of the Propane Education and Research Foundation, said.
“Another prolonged cold snap could strain supplies and prices for the next couple of months,” Willis said. “Winter isn’t done with us.”
This increase in need has not been alleviated by supply due to a late drying season for farmers and pipeline maintenance issues, Gov. Scott Walker said in a statement.
“Our goal with these actions … is to make sure if we have propane anywhere in or near the state of Wisconsin, we want to get it to where it’s needed, and that’s in the tanks of the end users all across the state,” Walker said.
Propane is also seen as a growing commodity in the country. According to the EIA, the U.S. currently exports 410,000 barrels a day, a large increase from the 100,000 barrels being exported just four years ago.
These concerns have led to targeted responses from the Wisconsin government in addition to federal relief efforts.
In his weekly radio address, Walker said the state had released $8.5 million in emergency benefits to help vulnerable citizens.
Walker also enacted a deal with the state of Texas that granted Wisconsin truck drivers special permission to meet Texas’s motor vehicle regulations, which should lead to an easier supply chain going toward Wisconsin.
According to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, a pipeline that ran from Texas to Chicago was reversed, which has increased propane supply to Wisconsin and many other Midwestern states greatly affected by the gas shortage.
Bennett Bonack, the Lakeland and Three Lakes division manager of Gasco Propane, said the propane issue seems to have been overblown.
“I do not think this as big of a deal as people are making it out to be,” Bonack said “Prices should return to normal around the summer.”
Propane is the primary heating source for 5 million families within the country and the typical usage for propane lasts until the end of March, according to the U.S. Energy Information Foundation.
As temperatures continue to rise through the spring, prices are expected to drop, as well, Bonack said.