MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — The winter of 2013 was the coldest in 50 years. And before it was over, businesses and homeowners faced a fuel crisis like never before.

That’s why the Gov. Mark Dayton called a “Propane Summit” with industry reps, railroads and farmers on Tuesday.

The governor is directing state agencies to anticipate the kind of problems from last winter’s perfect storm of propane shortages, delivery snafus and prices that shot from $1.70 to more than $6 a gallon.

“We’re going to be all over this, and monitoring it very, very closely, and do whatever the situation calls for,” Dayton said.

Farmers used up valuable propane supplies last year to dry a harvest that was late and wet.

Inventories were low when the record cold winter hit, and backlogged railroads struggled to make deliveries.

Minnesota Commerce Commissioner Michael Rothman has some advice this year: fill up early — like now.

“Prices are low during the summer months, but as the fall harvest comes in and winter hits, prices will start creeping up,” Rothman said. “And we want to avoid a propane situation like we did last year.”

The good news is that propane storage facilities in the region have increased their capacity. Last year gave the state a good idea of what it might have to do if there’s another emergency.

And it’s hard to believe we could have another “polar vortex” like we had last winter.

Dayton says there is plenty of supply going into this winter, and prices are expected to remain stable.

But a lot depends on how much farmers will need to dry crops this year, and propane prices almost always go up as the winter sets in.

Pat Kessler

Comments