Many of our neighbors in the Upper Peninsula are facing a real crisis this winter, caused by both man and nature, the astronomical price hikes for propane are causing hardship across the country - and right here in Delta, Schoolcraft and Menominee counties.
Due to a shortage of propane, customers and dealers are having a hard time getting their hands on the fuel. Even when supplies are available, the high cost of propane is leaving it unaffordable to many residents. During one of the harshest and coldest U.P. winters in recent memory, that's a dangerous combination.
On Feb. 10, a delegation of state officials and elected representatives gathered in Escanaba to discuss how agencies are trying to help residents through the propane shortage. Their efforts have been admirable, and helpful. Gov. Rick Snyder just extended the State of Energy Emergency in Michigan until March 1.
That allows people who deliver propane to work longer hours - hopefully increasing propane supplies. More monetary aid has also been made available to people who need help with their heating bills. Local agencies such as the Community Action Agency, St. Vincent de Paul Society and others are helping those who can't pay their heating bills and are fielding a record number of requests.
We hope that those in need get the help they need and applaud those agencies and individuals that have stepped forward to help in difficult times. You are the backbone of the relief effort. We hope the sub-zero temperatures that have gripped the U.P. for so long give way to an early spring and some relief from heating costs.
When winter does end, this will be just a painful memory. There is, however, a bigger issue on the horizon. What have we learned from what has happened this winter? More important, what are the powers that be going to do to make sure this doesn't happen again.
This crisis was made by man and nature. Brutal cold nationwide fueled demand. Propane plant shutdowns, transportation troubles, and other logistical woes fanned the fire. Before anyone realized, there was a real crisis at hand.
Now is the time for propane industry dealers and distributors to join together with our elected officials, state and federal agencies, relief organization and whoever else it takes to come up with a comprehensive plan to make sure another crippling propane shortage does not happen.
A plan needs to be put into place at both the state and federal level to improve logistics and availability of fuel so children in the U.P. and the rest of the country don't have to go to bed in a cold house without heat. Their parents shouldn't have to make the choice between paying the propane bill or putting food on the table. In the United States in 2014 - this is an outrage. It should not be allowed to happen.
There needs to be a plan in place for the future - a solution.
We have elected representatives to carry out our wishes - to serve the public and find solutions to problems. State Rep. Ed McBroom, state Sen. Tom Casperson, Gov. Rick Snyder, U.S. Rep. Dan Benishek, U.S. Senators Carl Levin and Debbie Stabinow - here's your homework assignment. Don't let history repeat itself.
Should a propane shortage of this degree occur again in the future, it will mean that those who had the ability to prevent it did not learn from history.
It's time you do your homework.