Propane shortage easing up

Lakes Gas Company as seen on Tuesday, March 11, 2014. (WLUK/Eric Peterson)
Lakes Gas Company as seen on Tuesday, March 11, 2014. (WLUK/Eric Peterson)

CRIVITZ - Propane problems seem to be easing, for now. Wisconsin residential prices are down 40 percent in the last 5 weeks.

At the Hook, Line, 'N Sinker in Crivitz, owner Frank Harth says people talk about the propane shortage almost every day.

“I do know a few customers up there where their contracts, through no fault of their supplier, couldn't be honored, and they just couldn't get propane,” said Harth.

Harth says area businesses suffered.

“People have a choice whether they are going to heat their home, or buy something in the shop, or go to the restaurant to have a meal, stop at the gas station for a few snacks on the way to work. That's all pretty much stopped,” said Harth.

Propane was at a premium. People kept warm with electric heaters and wood stoves.

The Wisconsin Propane Gas Association says the worst may be over.

The general manager of Lakes Gas Company says prices are coming down. Over the past month, they've dropped about 20 cents a week. In the Crivitz area, it's about $2.50 a gallon.

Lakes Gas plans to increase propane storage capacity both underground and in the field.

“I guess you come out of it saying, ‘What can we do to minimize anything like that in the future,’” said Steve Sargeant, Lakes Gas Company general manager in a phone interview.

Steven Sargeant says people should fill their tanks this summer.

“The customer with a full tank is in a far better position than the customer who is who is waiting until the winter to take a delivery,” said Sargeant.

Meanwhile, Harth says talk of the crisis may be over.

“They all seem to be getting propane now, and getting the remainder of their fills in on a timely basis. So I think it's eased up quite a bit,” said Harth.

Propane dealers say it may be another month until they fully recover. They say people can expect prices to drop below $2 a gallon by the end of the summer.