State leaders are discussing ways to help Wisconsin's rural areas deal with a propane shortage  that has driven up prices and left retailers with empty tanks.
Phyllis Hames, of Danbury, heats her home with propane. She has only about about 50 gallons left in her 500-gallon tank, but her local supplier can’t give her any more.
“Basically what they told me is they’re unable to purchase propane,” she said. “They simply don’t have the money to do it.”
The price of propane has jumped substantially in the past two weeks, with some retailers reporting prices hitting $4 per gallon. A consistently cold winter, pipeline issues and late corn harvest have been blamed for the price jump.
Now, people in rural areas are feeling the pinch. Hames said she’s done everything right: She pre-paid for the entire winter and is conserving as much as she can.
“I have my heat at 60 (degrees), I have a bedroom closed down and I’m not heating my walkout level,” said Hames. “But, as we all know, it’s been an inordinately cold winter. I’ve got space heaters going. There’s nothing else I can do.
“My question is, what am I supposed to do when my propane runs out?” she asked.
Gov. Scott Walker has declared an energy emergency, lifting some regulations on propane haulers. But State Rep. Nick Milroy, D-South Range, said that doesn’t address the high prices that small propane retailers are struggling with.
“What we need to come up with is an emergency program that will provide micro-loans to these small businesses -- short-term loans, low interest -- so that they can purchase propane from their distributers to meet their obligations to their customers,” said Milroy.
Walker has been cool to the idea of using state funds to address the state's propane shortage, saying it's an access issue, not a spending issue.
The governor will meet with stakeholders to discuss possible fixes on Monday.