Niagara Gazette

Bob Confer

March 17, 2014

CONFER: State's foot-dragging aggravates our energy woes

Niagara Gazette — I don’t have to tell you that it’s been a miserable winter in the northeast. We’ve been battered by an array of winter storms, from Polar Vortices to blizzards, and a seemingly endless barrage of below-average temperatures. 

This, of course, has led to higher than normal use of home heating fuels. Furnaces have been working overtime just to maintain a livable heat in households and businesses buffeted by the biting arctic winds.

Those of us from rural areas of upstate New York are especially pained by it. Where we live, there aren’t natural gas lines serving every house, so we opt for home delivery of propane. Back in October, propane prices were relatively reasonable in the $1.70 per gallon range. Now, it’s in the range of $3.30 per gallon. That’s a 94 percent spike in heating costs over the course of the season on a per unit basis alone. So it’s safe to say most homeowners (who didn’t opt for pre-buys or locked-in prices) are faced with heating bills more than double the size of last year’s.

Even though one would think that propane prices should be at all-time lows due to the explosion in fuel acquisition from Marcellus Shale deposits, it’s not the case due to an overwhelming number of issues affecting supply and delivery. Demand for home heating is high. Lots more propane is being used to dry corn due to a wet crop in the Midwest. A pipeline once used to bring propane to New York now sends ethanol south. The lack of propane pipelines forces mass delivery by rail, which is already strained by oil shipments. Propane exports are at record-high levels, there is a lack of adequate storage and heavy snowfall prevented tractor trailers from moving propane.

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Bob Confer
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