Propane shortage hikes home heating costs

by: Kyla Campbell Updated:

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WASHINGTON D.C. —

The country’s propane stock is nearing its lowest point in more than five years. Demand has led to wholesale prices doubling in just one week

Ohio Democrat Sherrod Brown and about 30 other senators sent a letter to President Obama asking him to take executive action to accelerate propane production, and to shop it by pipelines, road, rail and water.

“Maybe relaxing some rules, but not in any way jeopardizing public safety,” Brown said.

The Federal Transportation Department loosened some restrictions on propane truck drivers. They can drive more hours in a day, getting propane to more hard-hit areas.

Industry experts say President Barack Obama’s signature is needed to temporarily lift restrictions on weight limits for trucks.

“Propane trucks could carry 10 or 15 percent more propane than they are,” said Jeff Petrash with the National Propane Gas Association.

The cause of the shortage has been pinpointed to wet weather last fall. The excess rain required farmers to use five times the amount of propane they usually use to dry crops.

“We’ve also had a colder winter, colder than the 30-year average,” said Petrash.

More than 20 states issued disaster declarations related to the propane shortage. More of the heating fuel is coming through a major pipeline this week.

Industry experts say that could provide some relief by next week.