Letter of the Day (Jan. 29): Heating costs

  • Updated: January 28, 2014 - 6:29 PM

Propane users are paying a hefty premium for the same therm of energy.

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Rising propane prices are worrying many rural Minnesota residents who count on the fuel to heat their homes amid a bitterly cold winter.

Photo: Jerry Holt • Star Tribune,

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A recent Star Tribune article (“High heating costs create chilling effect across state,” Jan. 27) underscored the wild price swings of propane, a product used by 250,000 homes and businesses in Minnesota. Over the six years that I’ve used this fuel to heat a lake cabin, per-gallon prices have ranged from $1.50 to a recent quote of $5.87.

While natural gas is measured and sold differently — in cubic feet — it can be compared with propane based on individual BTU ratings, or “therms of energy.” On my natural gas bill for my metro-area home, a therm of energy is about $1.42 with taxes and fees. The equivalent price to produce the same therm of energy with propane would be $1.29 per gallon. The recent market price of $5.87 per gallon is a 355 percent premium over the cost of a therm of natural gas. Buyers can lock in lower prices in early fall, but still face a premium.

We keep our cabin at 52 degrees and use it sparingly in the winter. We will not be financially burdened by this spike, but tens of thousands of Minnesotans will be. Farmers and poultry producers use this fuel for operations, so rural homeowners will get hit twice when costs are passed on at the grocery checkout.

If state officials want to do something about energy prices, they would do well to work with natural gas suppliers to promote the extension of supply lines into more rural Minnesota areas.

MIKE MCGEE, Maple Grove

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