Propane shortage felt in the Tri-States

Updated story posted January 28 at 5 p.m.

Lawmakers are looking for a solution to the propane shortage throughout the country.

On Monday, Illinois Governor Pat Quinn declared a propane supply emergency. As a result, Illinois has lifted 24-hour driving limits on truck drivers so they can travel farther to pick up propane.

In Missouri, the attorney general's office is investigating possible cases of price-gouging. According to Attorney General Chris Koster. many people have complained of propane prices topping $5 per gallon.

The effects are being felt in Iowa as well - Governor Terry Branstad has asked President Obama for assistance in solving the problem and to ease up on truck-driving restrictions.

Locally, Illinois state representative Jil Tracy believes propane exports to other countries helped ignite the issue.

"The brutally cold winter has brought on the need and the demand, so I don't think we had stock reserves that we were going to need here in the states. That's driven up a shortage and the cost," Tracy said.

To help solve the issue, Tracy says raising awareness of the shortage is key. She also says legislators and aid agencies must work together now to help those affected, especially in rural areas.

Other factors contributing to the shortage are the extreme winter temperatures and large crop yields. Propane is commonly used to dry crops after a harvest.

The U.S. Energy Department says 5.5 million American households heat with propane.

Original story posted January 24

A local propane company says a lot of factors contribute to the propane shortage in and around the Tri-States.

"Prices are rising in those kind of terms its almost like a perfect storm that has happened this year. We started off the year with lower inventories and a big reason for that is because we are exporting huge amounts of propane." Tanya Crow, an Energy Department Manager with Praireland FS said.

Crow says people overseas are willing to pay high prices for the fuel.

She also says a late harvest contributed to the shortage.

"That's not so much the issue as we had a huge grain harvest in the Midwest. It was a late, wet harvest so a lot of that propane was used to dry down a lot of that grain," Crow said.

And mother nature plays the biggest role of them all.

"And then December hits, we had some cold winters right off the bat and we're dealing with that constantly here, it seems like mother nature is against us," Crow said.

Crow estimates that the main consumers, rural residents, are using 15 to 20 percent more.

And a deliveryman confirms it.

"A lot of the customers comments have been using a lot more gas that they've had in the past and we've been trying to work with each and every customer to meet their demand," Kevin Ketchum, a deliveryman for Praireland FS said.

However, they would like to remind us this is temporary.

"I don't want to create panic, there is propane out there ... we are getting propane and our salesmen take a lot of pride in making sure they are taking care of our customers the way they need to be taken care of ... that doesn't always mean they will get their tanks completely full, but we are watching to make sure nobody runs out," Ketchum said.