Propane Crisis: What's better? What's New? What's Ahead?

Updated: 02/21/2014 4:18 PM By: Brandi Powell

 This winter has been a tough one to deal with - especially if you rely on propane.

Residential and wholesale prices both spiked around Jan. 27, topping $4.50 a gallon. The average now, for residential propane, is $3.26 a gallon. For wholesale, it's $2.09 a gallon.

KSTP reporter Brandi Powell found out how some are working now to prevent a repeat of the propane problem next year.

There's some good news for those who've been hit hard by the propane crisis: prices are on a steady decline. Randy Nordin, resident of Lancaster, MN and CEO of PoDCo, LLC said, "As the price drops it's a huge relief, it still needs to drop substantially to get back to where we were."

According to the Minnesota Department of Commerce, the typical cost is approximately $1.70/gallon. Thursday's average cost is $3.26 cents/gallon. That's down $0.12 from the average price one week ago. And while it's much less than the nearly $6.00/gallon high, "The prices spiked at three times higher than what they normally are," Michael Rothman, the MN Department of Commerce Commissioner, said.

People who rely on propane to heat their homes, operate their farm, or run their small business are still not in the clear. Mike McGlone, Director of Salvation Army's HeatShare Program said, "We're not done with this yet, this is February, not June or May and there's still a lot of heating left."

Doug Peterson, President of the Minnesota Farmers Union said,  "We're just going to hope that we will have a dry fall with a corn crop that doesn't need to be dried and hopefully we get a break on the weather."

"We burn about 90,000 gallons of propane a year. The spike we just saw drove our weekly cost up to about seven to eight thousand dollars a week over and above and it that were to materialize and stabilize at the high rate we would be losing about $300,000 a year, " Nordin added.

They're hoping the steady decline continues.

Senator Al Franken led Thursday's discussion. He talked about the possibility of having a propane reserve in the Midwest. Some liked the idea. Others were concerned about the cost being too high to trigger the reserve.