Demand for propane spiked as winter temperatures dropped below freezing, and logistical challenges are making distribution of propane more difficult, according to the Propane Education and Research Council, Washington, DC. High demand for grain drying during the previous fall depleted local inventories in the Midwest, according to the council's website. Also, a major pipeline in the Midwest shut down in December. Plus, competition for rail cars and access to pipelines has soared on increased natural gas and oil production.
Now, some propane suppliers are rationing their supplies or diverting propane supplies for residential customers. Poultry farmers need propane to keep their chicken houses warm. The average poultry farmer may have a 1,000-gallon tank for each of their chicken houses. The Alabama Farmers Federation (Alfa) said some farmers are reporting problems getting their tanks filled.
In response to the crisis, Alabama Gov. Robert Bentley declared on Jan. 23 a state of emergency for all of Alabama. The declaration allows for direct assistance to facilitate delivery of propane and heating fuels by lifting federal transportation motor carrier laws and allowing propane tank owners to buy propane from any company. The declaration also invokes the state's price gouging law.
“With life-threatening cold temperatures expected once again, it is important for Alabamians to have the necessary heating resources available for survival,” Bentley said. “This State of Emergency will help Alabamians have an uninterrupted supply of propane gas and other home heating fuels during this period of winter weather.”
Alfa noted that poultry is a $15 billion industry in Alabama, which ranks third nationally in broiler production and 14th in egg production.