U.S. Midwestern states are scrambling to address a deepening shortage of the home-heating fuel propane just as another cold snap envelops the region, threatening to strain supplies that are already at historic lows.
Demand has been boosted by the combination of record freezing weather at the start of this year and a late, wet, record corn harvest last October and November, when large quantities of propane were used to dry out crops. Propane stocks have been drained and prices in the region are the highest since at least 1990.
To allow greater and quicker deliveries to rural homes and farms, several states, including Michigan, Indiana and Ohio, have suspended "hours of service" rules that limit the hours truck drivers can spend on the road, according to state notices collated by the National Propane Gas Association.
There are no strategic stockpiles around the country like there are for crude oil.
The industry is working round the clock to move propane from a large storage facility in Texas, using trains and trucks, pipelines and barges to where it is needed.
Some 14 million households use the liquefied gas to heat homes.
A gallon of residential propane in the Midwest cost $2.396 last week against $1.738 a year earlier.
In addition to the weather, inventories have also been cut short some pipeline problems and a long-term shift toward exporting more liquefied petroleum gas (LPG).