Newspaper article THE JOURNAL RECORD

Country Living Gets Costlier with Rising Propane Prices

Newspaper article THE JOURNAL RECORD

Country Living Gets Costlier with Rising Propane Prices

Article excerpt

ALPAUGH, Calif. (AP) -- The centerpiece of Harry Parson's patch of dirt and weeds -- there among the old cars and the pets -- is a shiny white source of heat and frustration: a propane tank.

Parson, a 68-year-old retired electrician, is already paying for heart medication, trying to upgrade to a doublewide trailer and feeding his menagerie of ducks, rabbits, sheep, dogs, cats and fish.

Add the cost of propane -- which recently peaked at about $2.35 per gallon, nearly twice as much as last year -- and life hasn't been easy for Parson and other rural residents.

"The price of this propane has gotten ridiculous," said Parson, who keeps his power off during the day, except to run his refrigerator, and fires up the heat only for a few hours at night.

The price of propane has jumped nationwide, but hit hardest in California. It is a byproduct of soaring natural gas costs that have put the state on the brink of blackouts for more than a month.

Utility representatives, lawmakers and Gov. Gray Davis met Monday to discuss the governor's multibillion-dollar plan to solve the power crisis, which had resulted in 32 consecutive days of Stage 3 power alerts until last week and two days of scattered blackouts last month.

Propane was always considered clean, efficient and cheap -- the fuel of choice for rural residents like Parson.

Now everyone living beyond the reach of natural gas lines -- from poor valley dwellers to the leisure class in mountain hamlets -- can relate to urban counterparts paying higher natural gas prices.

The higher propane costs can be blamed on a complex power production structure that was hit with something akin to a quintuple whammy, said Mary Reynolds, executive vice president of the Western Propane Gas Association.

Last summer's higher oil prices initially raised prices for propane, a byproduct of crude oil refineries and natural gas processing plants. …

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