Propane shortage causes frustration

File photo. (WLUK/Eric Peterson)
File photo. (WLUK/Eric Peterson)

TOWN OF BEECHER – There’s no relief in sight, at least in regards to a warm up from Mother Nature.

That’s unfortunate for some of the state’s quarter of a million propane users. They have already been pushed to the edge because of tight supplies.

At his rented home in the Town of Beecher, 81-year-old Tom Brown can only wait.

“I am helpless, and I’m frustrated, because there’s nothing I can do,” said Brown.

The glow from a portable heater and his electric oven set to 450 are all he has to keep warm.

“I sleep on the couch; I don’t go in the back bedroom. It’s too cold back there. So I sleep here. I wake up three or four times during the night,” said Brown.

Brown says he ran out of propane last week.

“I called my supplier. He says they’re out. They don’t know when they’re getting any new supplies,” said Brown.

“It’s ridiculous. And the prices, range. The lowest I paid was $1.19, and I paid up to $2.19 now they want $7 a gallon, forget it,” said Brown.

About a mile away:

“I think it’s on 60, that’s where I keep it,” said Alice Werner, Town of Beecher.

Alice and Arnie Werner are stretching their propane as far as they can.

“The only other thing I use propane for is drying my clothes, and hot water, and cooking,” said Alice Werner.

Werner says a wood stove keeps her house warm.

At Mathis Ace Hardware in Amberg, pellet sales for wood stoves are up, and electric heaters are selling quickly.

“We didn’t have a single heater until our truck came in yesterday. We had about $1,000 worth of heaters we sold yesterday,” said Bob Mathis, Mathis Ace Hardware and Lumber.

And as February approaches, the Werner’s hope their half-full tank will be enough.

“I’m hoping we’re going to be all right. I’m going to try and be all right,” said Alice Werner.

Tom Brown says he’s moving closer to his family.

“I’m going to find a place, someplace in Howard, or Green Bay. An apartment in my budget and move out of here. I can’t handle it no more. I’m too old.”

One big question in this crisis is when will it end?

We spoke with the Wisconsin Propane Gas Association Friday, and officials said supplies are still limited.

Prices across the state average between $5.50 and $6.50 a gallon right now. Officials say they should be below $3.00.

As for help, Governor Walker spoke with President Obama Thursday about the situation when the president was in Milwaukee.

Walker says the Obama administration will set aside $450 million for the state’s low-income home energy assistance programs.

The state has also set aside millions to help distributors and low-income residents.

And state officials also want to hear from you if you feel you’re being left out in the cold by your supplier.

The Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection has received reports of customers not getting propane, despite having prepaid contracts.

Click here to file a complaint.

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