Effingham Daily News, Effingham, IL

January 23, 2014

Propane shortage takes hold

Tony Huffman
Effingham Daily News

EFFINGHAM — A propane shortage has led to sharply rising prices and left residents and businesses conserving what they have left.

Brenda Byers, owner of The Hangar Restaurant at Percival Springs Airport just south of Effingham, was informed Thursday that she will receive one last propane delivery this week until further notice.

“They just don't have it,” said Byers, who buys her propane from Red Hawk Propane in St. Elmo.

Byers had only nice things to say about the propane distributor, especially since they are honoring her contracted price despite prices more than doubling this week. But the uncertainty of getting more propane has left her business in a lurch.

“We are cutting back our hours at the restaurant,” she said.

Starting immediately the restaurant will be closing six hours earlier at 2 p.m. on Tuesday, Wednesday and Saturday as a result of the shortage. However, she is keeping her regular hours on Thursday, Friday and Sunday.

The propane shortage can be blamed on the extremely cold weather, according to Illinois Propane Association Spokesperson John Tibbs, but several other factors are contributing to the growing problem.

“This started back in late fall with wet crops,” said Tibbs. “We used 300 million gallons of propane to dry the crops. We normally use 60 to 65 million gallons (to dry crops).”

Tibbs added that the United States doesn’t have a stock pile of propane like it does for crude oil. These issues, in addition to the fact that Illinois has seen a  30 to 70 percent increase in demand in various areas, has left an unprecedented shortage.

“This is history as far as the length of time for propane shortage,” said Tibbs, noting the industry has been struggling with demand since November.

Although several propane distributors in the area wouldn't comment on the shortage, Kevin Bernson, spokesman for Shelby County Electric Cooperative, believes the public should know about the limited supply.

“At Shelby Energy, we just want to inform people that if they use propane for their primary heat source, they may want to look into something else in case the shortage becomes more critical,” he said.

According to Bernson, Shelby Electric got a letter from their distributor Amerigas, saying the co-op will not get propane deliveries after this week. This week it got one of six deliveries, he added.

“It was odd for us to get a letter like that,” said Bernson, adding that some of the customers who do receive propane this week will get a limited amount. “People need to know they might have a hard time getting propane.”

For more, see Friday's print and e-editions.