Wisconsin facing propane shortage due to cold weather

MILWAUKEE (WITI) -- Demand is abnormally high this year for propane gas. It is delivered in tanks and is used to heat grills, run vehicles and perhaps most importantly right now -- heat homes. Homeowners with propane have probably already noticed their bill going up -- and this week, the price of propane shot up even more.

"It's crazy right now," Roger Boehlke said.

Any other year, a cold snap like the one we've been seeing in southeastern Wisconsin this week would be welcome news for a company that sells propane gas.

"It's pretty bad when a propane company is praying for warm weather," Boehlke said.

This year, the bitterly cold weather has only intensified the demand on companies like Boehlke Bottled Gas. The company was already struggling to make regular deliveries in the middle of a shortage.

"This is the first week we've really started to ration out fuel to our customers.  We're giving them short fills and at today's prices that's probably all they can afford too," Boehlke said.

Tanks that usually leave Boehlke's 80% full are leaving only half full.

It has been a struggle to keep enough propane in supply, and on top of that, the price of propane has risen $3 in just the last week.

"We hope the customers hang with us, and watch their thermostats, turn 'em down, conserve as much as they can and we'll try our best to keep 'em in product," Boehlke said.

The shortage started in the fall, when farmers had a late, wet harvest. To dry out the corn crop, farmers used a lot of propane.

"The average corn dryer can use as much propane in 24 hours as a home can use in a month, so it was a big draw on the system," Betsy Ahner said.

The industry needed a warm start to winter to replenish their supply -- but instead, temperatures plunged.

Gov. Scott Walker will gather stakeholders Monday, January 27th to address the issue.

"It's not about funding. It's not about money available at the state or federal level. It's about finding a viable way to get more propane into the parts of the state where we need it and other states in the Midwest," Gov. Walker said.