Fracking has the U.S. awash in oil and natural gas, as has been well documented. But the shale boom has also boosted supplies of a byproduct of natural gas drilling, and that should come as welcome news to Americans hoping to gather around the grill this year. Bloomberg reports:
Propane inventories have soared to the highest seasonal level in more than 30 years, sending prices in Texas to a 13-year low and forcing sellers in Canada to pay people to take it away.
The bargain-basement price is a byproduct of the U.S. shale boom, as record production of natural gas has doubled the supply of propane, commonly used for heating, crop-drying and cooking. The glut of natural gas liquids has turned the U.S. into the world’s biggest supplier and helped revive the nation’s petrochemical industry.
“We’ve gone from North America being a net importer of propane to the U.S. being the single largest exporter of propane,” said Michael Sloan, a Fairfax, Virginia-based principal at consulting firm ICF International Inc. “It’s a good time to fill up your propane tank.”
Propane prices are at their lowest level since 2002 as shale has nearly doubled domestic propane production since 2009. These are, in other words, boom times. Cheap propane isn’t just a boon to the country’s grilling aficionados (though some might spurn the gas in favor of charcoal)—many homes are heated on propane. In that sense, cheaper prices can have a real impact on the heating bills of many American households. Remember, too, that cheap energy, and in this case cheap heating, is especially welcome in poorer households, whose power bills constitute a larger percentage of their budgets.
So fill up your propane tanks, America! Now we’re cooking with gas…