MT. VERNON — The national shortage of propane has many residents worried about being able to heat their homes.
“We have been able to keep up with the demand our customers have had,” said Mark Flota of Flo-Gas. “We were on ration for a while, but that went off earlier this week.”
It’s not just the rationing that people are talking about, but the subsequent higher price of the fuel and the continuing cold temperatures.
Flota said the shortage started during the summer months, when the country was exporting propane to other countries.
“It took a lot of our inventory,” Flota explained. “We had a businer than normal grain drying season and a larger amount of propane was used for that purpose. That left the country with lower inventories than normal, then we’ve had a really cold winter on top of that.”
Flota went on to say the two main distribution lines, which run through the middle of the country from the Gulf Coast, was switched to send natural gas back down to the Gulf, reversing the flow.
“It took longer to rebuild the inventory of propane,” Flota said. “They were unable to build the inventory as quickly as we could have otherwise.”
Flota said propane suppliers are experiencing the same headaches as consumers.
“This is not good for our industry,” Flota said. “It makes people look for other options to heat their homes. ... Ninety-eight percent of the customers are understanding, they just need to vent about the prices.”
Flota said the prices have been fluctuating rapidly in the last couple of weeks.
“We’re telling customers every load is differnt,” Flota said. “It doesn’t change daily, it changes hourly. ... We’re seeing signs it is coming down from the highest point, seeing some relief.”
Flota said he had heard of prices as high as $6 a gallon a few miles north of Mt. Vernon, with normal propane prices about $2.20 per gallon.
“That’s out of sight,” Flota said. “It gives the industry a black eye.
Flota said those in the propane industry are hoping the government steps in and makes sure the inventories for propane are at set points before allowing exports in the future.
“I think we are seeing signs it will be better,” Flota said. “This is unusual. It’s not your normal thing that happens. Most people know that who have heated their homes with propane in the past.”