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Worst could be over for Indiana propane users

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After weeks of frigid temperatures, Indiana's propane dealers are hoping forecasts of warmer days, improving supplies and lower prices will begin easing shortages of the heating fuel that have left many rural Hoosiers in chilly homes.

An estimated 500,000 Indiana residents who rely on propane to heat their homes, most of them in rural areas, have been hit by weeks of propane shortages and much higher prices as a combination of subzero cold and market forces strained supplies.

But Scot Imus, executive director of the Indiana Propane Gas Association, said moderating temperatures and signs that the propane supply is stabilizing suggest the worst of the shortages may be over for propane users.

Indiana has also passed through what's normally the coldest period of the winter, he said.

"Hopefully we're going to start to see things settle down," Imus said. "The calendar is on our side, supplies are firming up a bit, and prices are stabilizing. We're better off than we were two weeks ago, but we're still not out of the woods yet."

The U.S. Energy Information Association says the average price of propane in Indiana soared from about $2.81 a gallon in early January to about $4.27 a gallon by early February.

But the group's report latest report released Wednesday showed Indiana's average price of a gallon of propane had dropped to $4.04.

Despite the improving picture, Imus said that for now rural residents who use propane still need to take steps to conserve their supply, such as by lowering their thermostat, checking doors and windows for drafts and addressing those.

Imus said the propane gas association's 90 propane dealers had imposed 150-gallon limits on its customers during the shortages, but he said a couple dealers have raised that to 200 gallons in response to improved supplies.

Those dealers also want to give a break to their employees, who've been working long hours and through weekends to deliver propane to customers whose tanks ran dry during the state's punishing streak of winter weather.

Central Indiana residents Kim Casada and her husband, Charlie, are still feeling the propane pinch. They shut off their furnace on Jan. 24 and switched to using four electric space heaters to warm their 3-bedroom rural home south of Muncie.

The couple finally got a 150-gallon propane shipment on Feb. 4, but because their supplier said he wasn't sure when they might get more propane, they decided to keep their furnace off rely on their space heaters until early March.

"We don't know what else to do," Casada said. "These chilly nights, it's just really hard and we're both exhausted."

Casada said she and her husband have covered their windows inside with plastic to keep the heat in and cold out and closed off their bedrooms to increase the temperature in their living room, where they've been sleeping most nights.

Around the house they've been wearing sweaters and layered clothing to deal with indoor temperatures in the lower 60s.

"There are so many people in the same boat as us," she said.

Crystal Pettet, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Indianapolis, said that after this week's latest shot of subzero cold, temperatures should rise by early next week to the lower 40s—readings about average to slightly above average for mid-February.

The remainder of February looks even better. Pettet said Indiana's 2-week forecast through the end of February calls for the state to finish out the month with above normal temperatures.

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  1. to mention the rest of Molly's experience- she served as Communications Director for the Indianapolis Department of Public Works and also did communications for the state. She's incredibly qualified for this role and has a real love for Indianapolis and Indiana. Best of luck to her!

  2. Shall we not demand the same scrutiny for law schools, med schools, heaven forbid, business schools, etc.? How many law school grads are servers? How many business start ups fail and how many business grads get low paying jobs because there are so few high paying positions available? Why does our legislature continue to demean public schools and give taxpayer dollars to charters and private schools, ($171 million last year), rather than investing in our community schools? We are on a course of disaster regarding our public school attitudes unless we change our thinking in a short time.

  3. I agree with the other reader's comment about the chunky tomato soup. I found myself wanting a breadstick to dip into it. It tasted more like a marinara sauce; I couldn't eat it as a soup. In general, I liked the place... but doubt that I'll frequent it once the novelty wears off.

  4. The Indiana toll road used to have some of the cleanest bathrooms you could find on the road. After the lease they went downhill quickly. While not the grossest you'll see, they hover a bit below average. Am not sure if this is indicative of the entire deal or merely a portion of it. But the goals of anyone taking over the lease will always be at odds. The fewer repairs they make, the more money they earn since they have a virtual monopoly on travel from Cleveland to Chicago. So they only comply to satisfy the rules. It's hard to hand public works over to private enterprise. The incentives are misaligned. In true competition, you'd have multiple roads, each build by different companies motivated to make theirs more attractive. Working to attract customers is very different than working to maximize profit on people who have no choice but to choose your road. Of course, we all know two roads would be even more ridiculous.

  5. The State is in a perfect position. The consortium overpaid for leasing the toll road. Good for the State. The money they paid is being used across the State to upgrade roads and bridges and employ people at at time most of the country is scrambling to fund basic repairs. Good for the State. Indiana taxpayers are no longer subsidizing the toll roads to the tune of millions a year as we had for the last 20 years because the legislature did not have the guts to raise tolls. Good for the State. If the consortium fails, they either find another operator, acceptable to the State, to buy them out or the road gets turned back over to the State and we keep the Billions. Good for the State. Pat Bauer is no longer the Majority or Minority Leader of the House. Good for the State. Anyway you look at this, the State received billions of dollars for an assett the taxpayers were subsidizing, the State does not have to pay to maintain the road for 70 years. I am having trouble seeing the downside.

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