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Propane shortage sends prices soaring

Richard Kremer, Wisconsin Public Radio

A shortage of propane is leaving distributors in a lurch and sending prices soaring in Wisconsin.

Propane prices in parts of the state are racing toward $4 per gallon, and distributors are waiting in line to fill their trucks. Brandon Scholz, managing director of the Wisconsin Propane Gas Association, says demand for propane is now higher than it’s ever been after repeated blasts of arctic cold. Also, Scholz says supply problems are causing a ripple effect.

“So, what we have is propane that’s being produced on a continuing basis going to the pipeline and going to the terminals,” says Scholz. “Everybody is working on, essentially, what’s being produced; there is no excess supply.”

Mike Covelli, general manager of Northern Lakes Cooperative in Hayward, says their trucks are having to sit and wait because terminals, like the one in Superior, are running out of propane.

“And that cost gets pushed right down to the consumer, which I think is irregular and really unfair because it’s really the supplier’s responsibility at whatever cost they can get it at,” says Covelli.

Covelli also says major propane producers have been exporting more because they can earn more money for their product in places like South America. Northern Lakes Distribution Manager Brenda Leonard says it’s all adding up at the worst possible time.

“Prices have skyrocketed, going up $0.70 in one day,” she says. “You can imagine what that does to the consumer, and not to mention all the added transportation costs on top of that.”

Northern Lakes Cooperative says they’re seeing record high prices. They're currently at $3.40 per gallon and could hit $4 by the end of the week.