Is propane shortage having local effect?

By Kumasi Aaron, Reporter, weekend anchor, kaaron@wjxt.com
Published On: Jan 29 2014 02:49:05 PM EST
Updated On: Jan 29 2014 08:14:12 PM EST

We may not be seeing those below-freezing temperatures, but we are experiencing a domino effect: because millions of people across the country are using propane to heat homes and businesses, the propane supply is going down, and prices are going up.

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -

A chilly home is what brought Daniel Blair to AA Bottled Gas on Wednesday.

He filled up his tank with propane, eager to get it back to his house.

"I was surprised this morning when I woke up and about 10 o'clock I was just out of gas and no heat," Blair said.

But for Jamison Wendia, his stop wasn't about getting propane for the day but creating a reserve.

"After seeing the news, you know, we've got some kind of national shortage going on, so I like to be prepared," Wendia said.

A propane shortage is plaguing much of the Midwest and Northeast in the midst of a cold winter. The governor of Ohio has already declared an energy emergency in his state to speed propane shipments. And officials in 33 states from Minnesota to Maine have taken similar steps.

David Pinkstaff, co-owner of AA Bottled Gas in Jacksonville, said while his company doesn't have as much propane as it usually does, it's nothing like what many are experiencing across the country.

He said the company has enough to last at least two weeks and has been limiting the amount customers can buy to stay on target.

"For cooking customers, we're limiting it to 23 gallons right now, and for heating customers, we're limiting to 50 gallons to 75 gallons, depending on their type of heating appliance they have, whether it's a partial heating or whole house heating," Pinkstaff said.

That's enough propane to last most customers for a few months, but it's more expensive.

According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, prices are around record highs, up more than 17 percent from a year ago. For Pinkstaff's customers, a gallon of propane gas costs about 70 cents more than it did at the beginning of the winter.

Despite the challenges, Pinkstaff said he's optimistic they will melt away with this winter's snow. And he offers this advice to customers:

"I don't think you should worry, you know," he said. "Just, if you're normally running your heat really high, turn it down, turn it off during the day when you're not home. And manage what you have. You'll probably be fine."

The staff at AA said most people have been very cooperative, though on occasion they have somebody who gets a little bit upset. Once they explain it to them that they're just trying to make sure everybody has some propane, the customers seem to be OK with it.

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