The Herald Bulletin

Afternoon Update

Local Business

January 24, 2014

Propane shortage spreads as temperatures plunge

Customers forced to pay $5 a gallon as suppliers scramble to find fuel


“We have a little space heater, but that won’t even come close to taking care of this house,” Welborn said.

Welborn purchased his fuel in advance, but if he had waited until today to refill his 500-gallon propane tank, it would cost him $1,500 for the six-week supply.

“That looks really scary whenever you are on retirement,” he said.

Donahue has reassured Welborn that he will have fuel when he needs it, but he hopes something will be done by legislators to prevent the situation from ever reoccurring.

“We used to import propane as a nation and now we are exporting it,” Donahue said. “The markets overseas are paying more than we are so they have even sold our reserves.”

To stretch his supplies and fill any emergency needs, Donahue has reached out to his farming customers to buy back or borrow any propane not used in drying crops.

In the last two weeks he has reclaimed 6,000 gallons.

“Every little bit helps," he said. "The farming community has been very gracious to help us out.

“Farmers in general tend to look out for their neighbors.”

Scott Imus, executive director for the Indiana Propane Gas Association, said propane deliveries to local hardware stores have been stopped in an effort to provide the fuel to homeowners first.

“We are also only delivering 150 gallons to homeowners to spread the product around so all our customers have access to it,” he said.

Imus is urging consumers to conserve, something Welborn says he has already done.

“I can’t conserve any more unless I want to see how uncomfortable I can get,” he said.

Like Traci L. Moyer on Facebook and follow her @moyyer on Twitter, or call 648-4250.

Did you know? -- Propane was discovered in 1910, by Dr. Walter O. Snelling. A chemist and explosives expert for the U.S. Bureau of Mines, Snelling made the discovery in a gasoline tank of a newly purchased Ford Model T. He eventually devised a way to use propane for heating, cooking and metal cutting. -- About 90 percent of the nation's propane supplies are produced in the United States. -- Propane is cleaner than most other fuels, is considered to be environmentally friendly and has been recognized as such in the Clean Air Act Amendments. -- Propane furnaces last longer than electric heat pumps. -- According to the U.S. Department of Energy, consumers can pay twice as much to operate a range, water heater, dryer or furnace with electricity than they would with propane gas. -- Propane is the third most popular gas used in vehicle transportation. -- Using propane fuel does not require the use of the large, unsightly tanks often associated with them. Underground storage tanks can be used in single-family homes and housing developments because the nontoxic fuel will not contaminate aquifers or soil. -- Propane is colorless and virtually odorless, which is why a strong rotten-egg smelling additive is used in the manufacturing process to make leaks easier to detect. If a leak is detected, avoid using lights, cell phones, or an open flame and evacuate the building immediately. Once outdoors, report the leak to your propane supplier. Sources: Propane Education & Research Council and

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