Another wave of arctic-cold weather is set to hit the area. Minnesotans are used to this. It is kind of amusing, sometimes, to watch the national reporters or news channels in the southern states making a big deal out of weather that, for us, is par for the course.
What is unusual this year is the shortage and resulting high cost of propane, which many people, especially rural residents, use to heat their homes. Farmers also count on it to keep livestock buildings safe and warm.
There are several factors leading up to this situation - a wet fall created higher moisture content in corn harvests, creating a bigger demand for propane used in the grain dryers. The cold weather has hit us hard and often, creating extra need for heating. Supplies and pipelines have not been keeping up with the demand.
People who heat with propane are well aware of their options to turn down their thermostats a bit and dress warm at home, to insulate and tighten up their homes with weather stripping, caulk and window film.
There are social and government programs to help people who can't afford to heat their homes, and to subsidize the cost of insulating and retrofitting houses to make them more energy efficient. We hope they can help people through this time of volatile prices, while government regulators work on making sure there is an adequate supply of propane in the future.