With today’s prices $500 covers only 125 gallons. While it sounds like a lot compared to filling up your car, most companies won’t even make a delivery for that little. McKim said the basic benefit has been boosted to $650 as an emergency measure and the state is working with propane vendors to lower the minimum amount they will deliver. Most are willing to cooperate, but not all.
Compounding the problem is the fact the midwest is facing an unusually harsh winter. Temperatures two weeks ago dropped to levels not seen in nearly 20 years. Daytime highs are running well below normal, even on comparatively warm days.
That means people are using more energy to heat their homes, draining the propane they had delivered early in the season much faster than normal.
Lisa Collins works for the Southern Iowa Economic Development Association, or SIEDA, which administers the LIHEAP program locally.
Collins said propane use doesn’t have the same measures as the miles per gallon familiar to drivers. There are too many factors involved. The temperature outside, the thermostat inside the house, the size of the house and number of rooms being heated all change how much long a gallon of propane will last for a homeowner.
But it’s clear the association’s clients are being put in very difficult positions.
“Usually we don’t see a big influx of people needing a second fill until February or March,” she said. But one recent day saw requests for help from 13 separate homeowners.
The cold will continue. Forecasters are predicting temperatures to fall below zero again early next week. The National Weather Service says Monday’s high in southeast Iowa could be in the low single digits.
No one knows how long this price spike will last. One of the best hopes may come from Texas, where Gov. Rick Perry and Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst have ordered the temporary waiver of the state’s licensing, permitting and certification requirements for propane transportation.