By Ros Krasny
WASHINGTON, Jan 30 (Reuters) - The Department of Energy is continuing to look for ways to mitigate propane shortages in parts of the country that have caused prices of the heating oil to reach record highs, U.S. Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz said on Thursday.
"We are in direct communication with the Department of Transportation, the Department of Commerce, and the Domestic Policy Council at the White House so we can bring whatever we can to bear on this issue," Moniz said in an interview with Reuters Insider.
The Department of Energy has some authority under the Defense Production Act to prioritize how propane is moved, Moniz said.
"I personally and many here at the Department of Energy have been on the phones every day to state governments, to state energy offices, to understand the situation," he said.
The shortages have affected millions of Americans this month as brutally cold weather laid bare the vulnerabilities of the distribution network of a fuel used to heat homes, schools and businesses across wide areas of the United States.
Moniz said "many factors" created the shortages, starting with a jump in demand for propane to dry crops in the upper Midwest during a wet autumn, and culminating in the "Polar Vortex" that has seen temperatures plunge in much of the United States, including far into the South.
He did not cite U.S. exports of propane, which hit a four-decade high in November, as a factor.
Spot prices for propane in the U.S. Midwest jumped to a record of near $5 a gallon last week as frigid temperatures spurred demand. Those price spikes have been "a major burden for a number of our citizens," said Moniz. (Reporting by Ros Krasny; Editing by Sandra Maler)