This propane shortage was brought to you by the free market

Update:
Senator Kathleen Vinehout’s recent article has more details. See America’s Propane Fuel Crisis: Nation has no strategic reserve, no restriction on exports

——————-
Perhaps you’ve already heard that parts of America can’t get a refill on propane for heating fuel.

Such is the case for some people in Florence County, Wisconsin where the temperature will dip to -20 degrees F. on Monday night.

From IronMountainDailyNews.com:

“Florence County Sheriff Jeff Rickaby said that he was made aware this morning that one propane supplier in the county has turned down at least 80 new requests for gas in the last 24 hours.

The business is saving its supply for established customers, he explained.
Rickaby added that some other smaller suppliers in the area have completely run out of propane.”

propane space heating market share 2011

Source for Propane space heating market share map of 2011

Why are people being put in this position? Apparently because they CAN be put there. (Thanks a lot, Global Free Market Capitalism.)

As noted by Reuters, “Unlike crude oil and natural gas, both of which are now at the center of a national debate over restrictive export rules, LPG and other fuels can be freely shipped abroad.”

propane exports

Source for Propane Exports graph: Market Realist Dec 30, 2013

From Financial Post, dated Nov. 22:
The U.S. exported 294,000 barrels a day of propane and propylene in August, or about 735,000 tons, 90% more than a year earlier, Energy Information Administration data show.

Several articles I’ve read today state that initially there was not enough export infrastructure at the Gulf Coast to handle exporting all the new propane that became available after companies began fracking the hell out of Oklahoma, Texas, Pennsylvania, and North Dakota. But where there’s a deregulated will and a rich guy or two, there is a way. The infrastructure to export was built so that cheap U.S. propane could be sold at a higher price elsewhere and the floodgates opened.

Seeking Alpha says that all refineries are making out like bandits right now but two companies are standouts in propane prosperity for having both refinery capability and LPG (Liquefied Propane Gas) terminals: Targa Resources Partners LP and Enterprise Products Partners LP.

“Both have been profiting handsomely; and both are likely to continue to do so for many years into the future.”

There are of course other things going on aside from the export situation – all forseeable factors assuming our gov’ts still have access to meteorologists, economists, and energy experts.

* The number of vehicles sold that run on propane in the U.S. doubled in 2012 in the US from 5,000 to 10,000. Dept. of Energy says that now 270,000 vehicles in America use propane.

* This extremely cold winter means we’re using more propane to stay warm

* An unusually high amount of propane was used to dry grain in the U.S. this year

So. A bunch of Americans are right now sitting in their winter coats and praying for warm weather.

When I pause to consider that some cross-section of those same Americans are drinking from fracked aquifers, breathing air with particulate silica from sand mines, and worried about the terror of bitumen tanker derailments – – then I know this newfound shale oil “energy independence” is for select shareholders, not us. The peon public is expected to subsidize shareholder energy independence and even freeze for it if that’s what is necessary.

And now we see Guv “Cares Too Much” do – something?
Wisconsin’s Governor will do something on Monday about the situation, the media informs us, though what exactly that will be is a mystery:
“Gov. Scott Walker says he will be gathering stakeholders on Monday to discuss a shortage of propane heating fuel in Wisconsin.”

Several articles note that he could send the National Guard door to door or assist the operations of local governments.

No articles mention whether there are any propane fuel reserves held by the National Guard. That would be a nice contingency to have right now.

Further reading –
The US’s Absurd Oil & Gas Export Laws – BreakingEnergy.com

U.S. shale threatens Saudi propane exports to Asia – Financial Post

Footnotes:

According to Platts, more export expansion is ahead:
“US exports of propane are, however, expected to increase to about 594,000 b/d in 2020 from near 217,000 b/d in 2013, according to Bentek data.”

That “Cares too much” reference (which we should never forget):

“Some will portray this as not caring about people; I think it’s just the opposite. I care too much about the people of this state not to empower them to control their own destiny…”
More to be found at Politifact’s partial transcript, video available at WisEye

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