LP Gas

A concerning disconnect

One request retailers, manufacturers and allied trade representatives made of their congressional representatives at the National Propane Gas Association’s (NPGA) Propane Days this summer was to equate propane and natural gas in environmental and energy policy debates.

This was at least the second straight Propane Days in which parity with natural gas was a discussion point. NPGA encourages this discussion because policies sometimes favor natural gas over propane.

Retailers specifically have their own concerns with natural gas. According to a recent 47-person survey Propane Resources conducted, 42.5 percent of propane retailers consider natural gas to be the biggest competitive threat to their businesses. This statistic isn’t necessarily surprising, but put in context with another survey result – one that says 81 percent of retailers do not offer programs or information to educate their customers about the differences between propane and natural gas – and there is cause for concern.

So nearly half of propane retailers consider natural gas a threat, yet only one in five are actively differentiating their product from one of the industry’s greatest threats? Clearly, a disconnect exists if retailers are concerned yet failing to take action.

Taking action isn’t a gargantuan task, though. According to Propane Resources, the retailers who are educating their customers are doing so in a variety of ways. Retailers say they’re handing out public awareness brochures, hosting public events with speakers and actively having conversations with customers.

Of course, there’s no telling how effective these actions are in educating customers about propane’s benefits. But at least some action is being taken to combat the threat.

Perhaps natural gas isn’t a major threat to your business where you’re located. Consider yourself fortunate. If, however, natural gas is costing you customers, now’s the time to tell them why propane is the better choice.

Kevin Yanik is the managing editor of LP Gas Magazine. Contact him at kyanik@northcoastmedia.net.