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Amid Cold, Rural MN Feels Pinch Of Rising Propane Prices

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) -- The extreme cold isn't just uncomfortable. It's becoming expensive, too, especially for homeowners in rural Minnesota who rely on propane to heat their homes.

Prices jumped last fall, and with several subzero nights this winter, the cost of propane continues to climb.

With a wife and six kids, Paul Silseth gets plenty of help on his Norwood-Young America farm. But as the sun sets, a new problem rises. The cost to keep his family warm is about to get far more expensive.

"I just had my propane tank filled last week and that's the last of my pre-buy. I've gone through that much," Silseth said. "Usually I go into March and that's my last one. Now I'll have to buy the next one at whatever the going rate is when I buy it."

And chances are it will be considerably more.

Last fall, Silseth locked in at a $1.39 a gallon for propane. With that contract now expired, he's looking at paying nearly $4 a gallon to fill a 500-gallon tank.

In just two months, prices have more than doubled. And some suppliers find themselves having to go to Nebraska, Kansas, Missouri, even as far as Texas to get propane.

"I'm in my 41st year in the business and I've seen nothing like this before," Roger Leider, executive director of the Minnesota Propane Association, said.

Leider said the propane shortage in the upper Midwest really started last fall. A wet harvest followed by extreme cold has exhausted liquid propane supplies. That means more trips to southern states to get propane.

The rising heating costs are now a cold reality.

"It's really unacceptable and yet we are trying to do everything we can to find more supply and reduce that cost," said Leider. "It's going to take a little time."

The Minnesota Department of Commerce recently announced that there is now assistance available to families who use propane to heat their homes.

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