All it takes is a quick Google search for “propane prices” for the nationwide problem to be apparent. A few of the top stories are across a wide expanse of our nation, including Kansas, Iowa, Michigan, Wisconsin and Missouri. A customer in Michigan said,
“$1.50 per gallon for propane at the start of the heating season, now with this cold what justifies $6.99 a gallon? Greedy people!”
Luckily it doesn’t appear to have reached those proportions here in northern Georgia. With Governor Nathan Deal and Agriculture Commissioner Gary Black signing an executive order prohibiting price gouging for propane yesterday perhaps the problem has been curtailed. In addition, Deal recently eased propane transport restrictions which should help.
With local companies reluctant to release prices, emails and calls in to company heads have also gone unreturned so no solid current price has been uncovered. However, indications are that with the current extended cold snap energy usage has increased more than 50 percent in January.
“This is the worst season we’ve ever seen and we’re being as fair as we can to our customers. This is not how we operate,”
reported a local propane agency employee who declined to be identified.
While a northern Georgia price hasn’t been nailed down by FYN, an email yesterday from Amerigas to the Big Canoe consortium showed prices are at $3.59/gallon and rising. They saw a 17 percent rise yesterday alone. In fact, the Big Canoe consumers were asked to conserve as much as possible and if they have 1000 gallon tanks they will only be filled until 50 percent capacity until the critical time period has passed.
That along with the news that the unnamed local company did reveal that only two weeks ago their prices were at $2.29/gallon shows the wild fluctuations.
Pickens County Commissioner Becky Denney and Gilmer EMA Director Tony Pritchett have stated they’ve not received any complaints of people running out of gas. With Deal’s attention to the matter as well as local officials keeping watch, northern Georgia may ride out the crisis without too much discomfort.
If you are having trouble or encounter trouble paying for your propane, these local agencies may be able to help:
North Georgia Community Action Agency – 706-692-5644; 706-692-5644
Faith, Hope and Charity – 706-635-3035
St. Vincent de Paul – 706-636-2772
Heritage Propane, Gas Incorporated, Thompson Gas, Woodstock Gas and Ferrellgas have not answered questions or emails but FYN will update as company officials respond.
UPDATE: Amerigas offered this statement this afternoon:
AmeriGas delivers propane to over two million customers in all 50 states. We are currently rationing deliveries to customers in a select few service territories. However, we are working hard to alleviate these supply issues and ensure that all of our customers are taken care of. AmeriGas’s size, purchasing power, supply and logistics team, and our fleet of long-haul transports enable us to quickly get propane supply to the areas currently in need. Our goal is to ensure that everyone stays warm and safe this winter.
There are three major factors combining to create high prices at this time.
First, wholesale prices of propane are up more than 60% versus this same period last year. (This is the price we pay to buy the fuel on behalf of our customers.)
Second, transportation costs are also up dramatically due to a strained system of pipelines, rail, barge and transports that is working hard to get propane where it is needed as quickly as possible. (There is only so much capacity to move product… and when demand is high, that capacity is constrained and costs increase. Just one example… we have to drive farther to get the product, and often wait in line with other trucks to do so.)
Third, high demand for propane over the past month due to colder temperatures in many parts of the country than we have seen in recent years. (This becomes a simple law of economics – supply vs. demand.)
Our #1 priority is to make sure we have adequate supply to meet the needs of our customers. We encourage customers to take advantage of automatic delivery and a variety of payment plans to ensure they have fuel when they need it and help control propane costs.
Important steps that consumers should take to stay safe and ensure they will be able to get deliveries:
1. Clear snow and ice from around your propane tank, chimneys, flue pipes and vents. Use a broom rather than a shovel, and clear these areas frequently to reduce the possibility of carbon monoxide poisoning. If pipes freeze and crack, gas can leak out and cause potential danger.
2. Keep a path clear to your propane tank. This will help our delivery drivers to get to your tank easily, refill quickly, and get to the next home.
3. Alert Snow Plow Contractors. Make anyone hired to perform snow removal be advised that a propane truck is much wider than your car or pickup. The drive must be plowed out wide enough for the truck to back in. Also remind the plow operator of the presence and location of your tank (whether it is aboveground or underground). Accidental contact of snow removal equipment with tanks could cause a serious safety hazard.
4. Use extreme caution when operating portable generators. Never use a portable generator (gasoline, diesel, or propane) indoors or in enclosed areas. This can result in carbon monoxide poisoning or death.
5. “Button-up” your home to conserve energy. If you haven’t already done so, check caulking around doors and windows, seal air leaks around openings where plumbing or electrical wiring goes through walls, floors and ceilings, and secure storm windows throughout the house. Conserving energy is a smart thing to do all the time, especially when it is cold.
Gilmer County Correspondent Wendy Klimbal assisted with collecting information for this article.