In October, the Energy Office began calling nearly 30 propane and heating oil dealers across the state every Monday to ask about retail fuel prices. The information that was gathered then became a part of a state, regional and national database maintained by the Energy Information Administration.
The Energy Information Administration, a statistical arm of the U.S. Department of Energy, conducts the State Heating Oil and Propane Program from October to March – during the heating season – each year. Nebraska has not provided retail prices for the survey for more than five years.
The Energy Office collected retail heating oil prices from 14 companies and retail propane prices from 15 companies. These prices represent average residential home heating prices charged, excluding taxes and cash discounts, for home delivery of No. 2 heating oil and consumer grade propane.
In performing this data gathering work, the Energy Office discovered a flaw in the regional data distributed by the federal agency: Gaps in state level data often led to skewed, or inaccurate, averages for the Midwest region.
For example, week after week the Energy Information Administration reported Nebraska’s average retail propane prices were the lowest in the Midwest region. With transportation costs being minimal, Kansas and Oklahoma should also have had low prices – possibly lower than Nebraska’s. But, propane prices are not surveyed in Kansas or Oklahoma. In the 15-state region, propane prices are gathered in 11 states, and heating oil prices in even fewer – just eight.
For statistical purposes, the federal energy agency defines the Midwest region as consisting of 15 states – stretching from North Dakota to Oklahoma and from Nebraska to Ohio and including Kentucky and Tennessee.
According to data from the 2000 census, 58,558 homes in the state, or about 9 percent, use propane as the primary home heating fuel. More than 5,400 homes in Nebraska, or less than one percent, use heating oil as the primary home heating fuel.