Cold Snap Hurting Propane Supplies In Illinois

Jan 28, 2014

Credit NPR

The extremely cold weather continues to put pressure on propane distribution in Illinois. The situation has caused Governor Pat Quinn to declare an emergency.

The declaration eases regulations on propane truck drivers, so they can drive into other states to fill their tanks. Officials hope steps like this will ensure there is enough of the product to go around. Industry officials estimate that roughly 35-percent of homes statewide are heated by propane gas.

John Tibbs is with the Illinois Propane Gas Association. He says the supply crunch actually began to take shape last year.

“We had a lot of farmers use the product to dry their wet grain crop,” Tibbs said.

That factor, combined with the recent cold snaps, has forced suppliers to scramble. Tibbs says there is enough propane here in the U.S., just not in the upper-Midwest right now. The extra work to get it here is driving up prices, which have gone from around $1.50 a gallon to more than $5.50 a gallon in some cases.

Ripple effect

Jim Fraley of the Illinois Farm Bureau says they're noticing the pinch.

“For the pork producer, it’s especially challenging to keep their buildings warm,” Fraley said.

Fraley says the extra costs shouldn't have an impact on pork prices. But he says some farmers might keep their thermostat a little lower to keep their costs down. He says that in turn could slow up the supply chain.

Fraley also says farmers who didn't lock in their heating rates and are being socked with higher bills might hold back on equipment purchases down the road.