By Desirée Taylor
It may not be the most commonly used fuel in the state but the jump in propane prices has consumers who use it crying fowl.
“Well they have been pretty expensive, we started out the season in a $3.84 range and believe it is up to $4 something now.,” said Barbara Manchur.
Compared to February of last year, the average price per gallon is now about $1 higher. Experts attribute the increase to several factors.
“Propane poses a unique challenge this year. Unlike other fuels, in terms of supply problems resulting in rail capacity issues to get product here as well as cold weather and tight inventory,” said Eric DeGesero of the Fuel Merchants Association.
“The other problem is that we had some maintenance of some major pipelines last Dec. that put supplies behind,” said Phil Flynn.
Propane companies are also passing their higher costs on to consumers, says Crystal Smith, spokesperson for the New Jersey Propane Association.
“The wholesale price of propane is up 50 percent over where it was last year. This is the price that our local propane companies are paying for the fuel. Transportation costs are also up dramatically,” Smith said.
The U.S. increased exports of propane. But experts can’t agree on whether that is impacting prices. Washington’s pushing to increase supplies and capacity here in the U.S.
“On the federal level, we were able to open pipelines and focus capacity on transporting propane over other fuels to get more supply become available recently. And more behind it,” said Smith.
The cold weather also impacted prices for heating oil or propane, but not as dramatically. Neither oil nor propane are regulated and with prices set by the competitive marketplace, consumers should take steps to control costs.
“Consumers can save five to ten percent just by making sure their system is running at peak efficiency. If your system is more than 15 years old, you might want to consider upgrading to a newer high efficiency system which can save you 30 and up to 40 percent on your annual consumption depending on how old your existing system was,” said DeGresero.
Consumers probably won’t get much relief until spring raises temperatures and lowers fuel prices.