By Timothy Cama - 05/01/14 05:23 PM EDT
Better data to forecast propane pricing changes and weather could have mitigated this winter’s unprecedented propane shortage and price spikes, though storage and transportation infrastructure could have played a role as well, senators said Thursday.
The winter was one of the coldest on record. Areas that rely on propane for heat, such as the Northeast and the Midwest, had some of the worst shortages and highest prices in decades, senators said at an Energy and Natural Resources Committee hearing on the propane shortage.
“Extreme weather and long winter demonstrate how weak and disjointed inadequate energy infrastructure can have real harmful consequences for millions of American families and our economy,” said Sen. Mary LandrieuMary Landrieu oil is changing the world and Washington Ex-Sen. Kay Hagan joins lobby firm Republican announces bid for Vitter’s seat MORE (D-La.), the panel’s chairwoman. “These shortages last winter remind us that it would take significant investments in infrastructure to harness the full potential of this energy revolution.”
“We’ve got the pipeline capacity, but so much of this is an issue of timing,” said Sen. Lisa MurkowskiLisa MurkowskiKerry visits Arctic Circle to see climate impacts Senate panel clears EPA spending bill, blocking rules Momentum slows for major energy bill MORE (R-Alaska), the committee’s ranking member. It’d be easier to prevent future shortages if the market and regulators could predict harsh winters, she said.
Sens. Al FrankenAl FrankenAl Franken says he would be Clinton's vice president if asked Poll: Sanders, Rubio most popular VP picks Bernie Sanders’s awkward return to the Senate MORE (D-Minn.) and Tammy BaldwinTammy BaldwinOvernight Finance: Wall Street awaits Brexit result | Clinton touts biz support | New threat to Puerto Rico bill? | Dodd, Frank hit back Dem hopeful that Congress will eliminate tax break for investment fund managers Congress should stop government hacking and protect the Fourth Amendment MORE (D-Wis.) asked for the hearing, as their states were hit particularly hard by the propane shortage.
Franken homed in on data shortcomings as the main reason for the problems.
“The Energy Information Administration had made some sort of projection as to the cost increase over the winter of propane, and it was like a very, very small projection,” he said. “So I think we have an issue of bad data or estimates that were given by DOE — through EIA — that discouraged the accumulation of supply.”
Melanie Kenderdine, director of the Department of Energy’s office of energy policy, made a similar conclusion.
“I’d say that EIA’s forecasts on price increases were off,” she said. “Weather forecasts were wrong as well.”