LP Gas

Those of us not on the front lines of delivery wonder how retailers do it

How?

That’s a question we asked more than once as we assembled this issue. How do the men and women of the propane industry – many of you – brave the extreme winter weather conditions on a daily basis to deliver fuel to your customers?

While many of us enjoy the calm and comforts of our offices and all of the amenities they have to offer, a select group of propane industry employees is lacing up its cold-weather attire and going outside to work amid all of the nasty elements one can experience in the dead of winter.

It’s amazing, really, to think about how you must overcome not only nature’s challenges – on icy roads and at customer tank locations barricaded by snow – but also execute the job safely while the cold bites at your skin and the wind whips around you. Talk about distractions.

So how do you, driver of the propane industry, carry this out? I imagine by dedicating yourself to the job, to your company and to the customer through sheer toughness. Only you know from within how the job gets done – and we praise you for it.

How?

That’s the question I imagine Managing Editor Kevin Yanik was asking when we sent him into Michigan – in January, no less – for our annual ride-along feature with a propane retailer. He accompanied Crystal Flash’s Chad Meinke, assistant bulk plant manager, during several stops on one of the coldest days this winter. Somewhere, Yanik is still thawing out.

Meinke, meanwhile, addresses the nature of his job with one succinct phrase in our story from the front lines; I won’t spoil it for you here.

Talking prices
We listened last month to an Oil Price Information Service (OPIS) webinar on energy pricing in a changed world, and a few items caught our attention.

Much discussion centered on the fall in oil prices – from more than $100 a barrel to less than $50 – after sustained highs for about five years. One interesting take on oil prices came from Katherine Spector of CIBC World Markets, who said the lower prices go, the higher the potential rebound six to 18 months later.

“We’re in for a period of volatility, with violent ups and downs,” Spector said during her presentation.

Shifting gears, Andy Lipow of Lipow Oil Associates noted dock congestion in Houston has been a huge issue for Gulf Coast refiners looking to export excess product. He cited propane export volumes at 550,000 barrels per day.

Another large number shared during the webinar: $140 billion. According to Tom Kloza of OPIS, that’s the amount Americans will save this year due to lower gasoline prices. It’s interesting to think how Americans will spend those extra dollars and how businesses will try to earn a portion of them.

Energy prices, including those of wholesale propane, have followed the free fall in crude. We get a propane industry-specific report on prices and what they mean for retailers from Propane Resources’ Pat Thornton.

Discussing morals
I just finished an interesting read from a young author named Alex Epstein, who wrote “The Moral Case for Fossil Fuels.”

Propane isn’t mentioned specifically in the 248-page book, but Epstein does provide a unique perspective on how fossil fuels improve lives.

Epstein writes with an easy-to-read yet compelling style as he explains a viewpoint not often expressed throughout the United States.

His case is built on human life as the standard of value – a pro-human environmental philosophy versus nonimpact as an environmental ideal.

He calls fossil fuel energy cheap, plentiful and reliable, questioning the reliability of wind and solar as renewable energy forms. He champions those who work in the oil and gas industries, saying they should feel proud, not ashamed, of what they do for a living.

If you want to learn more about this topic, or the author and book, visit www.moralcaseforfossilfuels.com.