Nearly 60,000 homes in Nebraska, or almost 9 percent, use propane as the primary home heating fuel. Another 5,400 homes - about one percent - use heating oil as the primary source of heat.
During the winter, prices and supplies for these two fuels can become volatile. Last year, Energy Office staff began monitoring prices and supplies for these two fuels on a weekly basis between October and March.
The monitoring, in part, was due to the unreliability of existing regional data bases.
The Nebraska Energy Office recognizes the need of winter price information to fulfill these objectives: (1) to provide information to the Governor and the public regarding the price and status of winter fuels, (2) to prepare the agency to respond in an effective, efficient manner to potential heating fuel problems, and (3) to improve an analytical tool.
During the 2001-2002 heating season, gaps in state-level data often led to skewed, or inaccurate, price averages for the Midwest region. Nebraska's average retail prices varied from $.07 to $.17 per gallon for heating oil and from $.23 to $.28 per gallon for propane below the Midwest region's averages.
This indicates that the Midwest region's average doesn't always accurately reflect Nebraska's situation. (Average wholesale propane prices were consistently about $.02 per gallon below the Midwest region's averages throughout the 2001-2002 heating season. Average wholesale heating oil prices are not collected for Nebraska.) According to the Energy Information Administration, week after week, Nebraska's average retail propane prices were the lowest in the Midwest region. With transportation costs being minimal, Kansas and Oklahoma should also have low prices-possibly lower than Nebraska's. The reason Nebraska consistently has the lowest average price is that propane prices are not gathered in Kansas or Oklahoma. In the 15-state region, propane prices are gathered in 11 states, and heating oil prices in only eight.
Participation in the State Heating Oil and Propane Program has enabled the Nebraska Energy Office to obtain reliable numbers independent from the Midwest region's average.
The Energy Information Administration's State Heating Oil and Propane Program is a vehicle that can fulfill the need for timely and accurate information and meet the proposed objectives. The price data collected throughout Nebraska, combined with the price data from other participating states and analyzed by the Energy Information Administration, will provide state, regional and national pictures of the winter heating fuel status. The Nebraska Energy Office and other affected entities within Nebraska will use the final report to aid in the prediction of and preparation for future problems.
The responsibilities of the Nebraska Energy Office include:
The Energy Office received a grant of $6,000 from the federal energy agency and will provide a match of $6,317 for this one-year monitoring project.