The Duncan Banner

February 9, 2014

Pricey propane, frigid weather pack double whammy

Steve Olafson
The Duncan Banner

DUNCAN — It’s been an expensive winter for propane users.

A steady stream of customers  at the MFA Propane outlet in Duncan visibly wince or roll their eyes when the soaring price of propane is brought up.

They are recreational vehicle dwellers, folks living  in the country without access to natural gas, itinerant pipeline workers who travel the country in their RVs  and dedicated outdoor cooks who barbecue  even in the dead of winter.

“They’re more understanding that I thought they’d be,” said MFA bookkeeper Paul McElroy, who takes the orders and pumps the propane at the MFA store  on Bois ‘D Arc.

“We hate to charge so much, but no more’s going in our pocket than what we had before.”

Before the shortage, a gallon of propane cost $2.19, she said. Then it shot to $4 a gallon.

In the midst of a bitterly cold winter, customers have little choice but to pay the going rate.

“It’s too cold to go without it,” said Belinda Adams, a Duncan woman who lives in a 38-foot recreational vehicle that is warmed by two electric heaters.

Her 7-gallon propane tank will last about four days, she said.

The high prices and short supply have been blamed on high demand, the nationwide cold weather, increased exports and the shutdown of a pipeline to the midwest in December.

Propane supplies are 44 percent below last year’s level, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration.

The U.S Department of Transportation has granted 31 states, including Oklahoma,  so-called "Hours of Service Relief" to allow truckers to drive longer hours to expedite propane deliveries.

Gov. Mary Fallin also instructed the Oklahoma Department of Human Services to expedite financial help to low-income families who can’t afford their propane bills.

In Stephens County, 10 applications for help with propane costs were processed while three were processed in Cotton County, said Rodney Wade, the DHS director in Duncan.

Up to $650 per family can be authorized for propane heating assitance, Wade said.

There are about  400,000 propane consumers in Oklahoma.