Propane, Global Warming & Corruption

Is the use of Propane an indicator for Corrupt Government?

For years I’ve watched news reports from various corrupt governments around the world. Presently many Arab / Middle Eastern. Inevitably you see images of people rolling propane tanks down the street to get them refilled, or loading trucks with propane tanks to get them filled. THE fuel of choice for household cooking in many M.E. areas seems to be Propane.

I’d often wondered “What is wrong with them that they don’t have electric kitchens or plumbed natural gas?” Like “we do in the modern world”.

Then yesterday I was loading MY propane tank into the Subaru to get it filled… I don’t use a lot of propane (or at least historically have not). One tank lasts a lot of the BBQ season. But recently I decided that the abusive electricity rates in California meant it was “worth it” to use my camping gear for cooking instead of my All Electric Kitchen (AEK).

For the last few weeks I’ve been alternating between using up one old 1 lb propane canister (it had sat outside for a ‘few years’ and the paint was bubbling indicating some rust started around the base, so time to use it up), using methanol, and using up some old Coleman White Gas (similar rusty can issue). All with an eye to deciding what to make my “daily cooker”.

Methanol is fast, clean, and easy. Silent. But it costs $10 / gallon at the local stores and even racing methanol is now $7 / gallon. Then you need to double that to allow for the 1/2 fuel value per gallon.

Gasoline, here, is running about $3.40 / gallon (of which something like $0.43 is California Gasoline Tax, then you get to pay sales tax on the gas and on the tax… yes, we get to pay sales tax on a tax…). It is the cheapest fuel, but not by much. In Europe the taxes are even more abusive.

Then Propane. It is running about $4 / gallon here, bought at the supplier. Most folks just do a ‘tank exchange’ at the local grocery store or hardware store for about $20. BUT, the hidden cost there is they only load 15 lbs into the 20 lb tank… so it’s about $7 / gallon.

So with just a bit more taxes on Gasoline, Propane would be the cheapest. Then, it is just a whole lot easier to use. Turn the knob and click, you are at full power. The gasoline stoves need various pumping and starting / warm up setting, then after 60 seconds, a shift to regular operating mode. Not only is this a bit of a PITA (especially pumping if you are cooking something like beans that take an hour), but it also means wasted fuel on things like making a cup of coffee. That 1 minute warm-up is either wasted fuel (out of a 3 minute burn), or you risk soot on your pot if the adjustment isn’t right.

Sidebar on Gasoline Coleman Lighting: The directions on the 2 burner stove say to move the lever up to light (limiting liquid use while the generator warms, and requiring lots of pumping) then wait a minute and turn it down to run (letting liquid rush into the generator and boil). I’ve learned that in very cold weather, or when low on fuel, to not put the lever all the way up. Slowly move it to about 30 degrees and then 45 as things warm up. IF it starts to yellow the flame, back off about 5 degrees. This gives a rapid warming, a more stable flame (especially if very cold or windy) during warm up, and it is reasonable to start the pot on that flame instead of wasting the fuel.

Still, it’s a bother and a bit more wasteful of fuel at cold starts. With just a bit more (abusive) gasoline taxes, propane would even be cheaper too. Even with the higher costs, you can see at Walmart that they sell propane canisters by the pallet load, while white gasoline is just one row on the shelf. (Though big users will be running on unleaded gasoline).

It’s The Taxes & The Stupid

So why am I looking to get my propane tank filled now? Because once I’ve used up the “old fuels”, it is the most comfortable to use, clearly cheap enough, fuel. Government stupidity and Global Warming Corruption have driven the cost of electricity too high to be worth using in my AEK. Government taxes are slowly (not so slowly?) driving up the price of Unleaded Gasoline to be similarly priced, and in much of the world, higher priced, as fuel. Propane is the fuel that isn’t so abused while being very comfortable to use.

So as I join the 2nd and 3rd world cooks in converting to cooking on Propane, on my patio, it caused me to pause and wonder for just a minute. I’m doing this as our government has joined the parade of places abusing their citizens with high taxes and regulatory burden on electricity and gasoline. As California implements this 3rd World POV, I find myself adopting the same 3rd World strategies.

Which has lead me to conclude that cooking (not just the summer BBQ remote from the house – your daily cooking chosen by cost basis) and in particular, cooking using tanks of propane, looks like a decent indicator of the degree of Government Abuse Of Citizens and of Government Corruption.

Effective governments with a libertarian bent set up low tax regimes and have a profit driven growth of Utility Companies delivering cheap and reliable electricity and gas services to homes; resulting in little propane use for primary cooking fuel. (Mostly remote farms and areas where installing a pipeline is very expensive). Governments that see Utilities as a profit center and tax them heavily, then regulate to strangulation; they cause price rises that make it cheaper and easier to just take your propane tank to the truck and get it filled. Then you see lots of home kitchens running on small propane tanks.

Are there other such Sentinel Fuels?

I don’t know, but I suspect kerosene might be similar. Still widely used by the Amish in America, and available at modest cost in drums or as jet fuel. The stoves are relatively easy to operate and work very well, especially in larger burner sizes. I bought one for use in running a fuel driven oven and it worked well for baking bread on the patio. Perhaps it is used in other countries to bypass government abuse of utilities as well, but just without seeing folks rolling kerosene tanks down the street. I do know that it is widely used in India. Unfortunately, in California, it is now difficult to get low cost kerosene that is not full of red die.

In Conclusion

In any case, the iconic images of large stacks of Propane Tanks waiting to be filled, or of a kid rolling it down the street to the station; those show where Governments are ineffective, and abuse their citizens. To me, it looks like a fair indicator. As the Warmistas proceed to hike electricity costs to crazy levels (via solar and wind mandates & taxes), and as gasoline gets similarly abusive treatment, watch for wider adoption of propane as cooking fuel of choice in much of the world. Here, in the USA, natural gas is cheap and many homes have that option. I’m looking into installing a natural gas stove in my kitchen, once the outdoor kitchen is up and running on propane and I can shut off the kitchen stove for a while. So for the USA, the proportion of gas vs electric kitchens ought to be an alternative indicator.

Well, with that, I need to go get my propane tank filled…

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About E.M.Smith

A technical managerial sort interested in things from Stonehenge to computer science. My present "hot buttons' are the mythology of Climate Change and ancient metrology; but things change...
This entry was posted in Economics - Trading - and Money, Emergency Preparation and Risks, Political Current Events and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

24 Responses to Propane, Global Warming & Corruption

  1. rogercaiazza says:

    Good post. It reinforced my love of natural gas for heating and cooking. Of course the Warmistas cannot abide that fuel either. Here in NY fracking is outlawed and the environmental jihadists are demanding no new natural gas infrastructure. To top it off they want to replace natural gas furnaces with heat pumps powered by renewables. I don’t know what it will take to convince them that this is not the state to depend on solar for winter heating or at least where I live with ten feet average snowfall.

  2. philjourdan says:

    You have discovered a badly kept secret. The goal of AGW is to bring about a socialist paradise where everyone is equally poor. Except the ruling elite.

  3. cdquarles says:

    Well, there are safety reasons why it isn’t a good idea to fill a bottle under pressure with a volatile liquid completely full when you can easily see 10 to 20C/18 to 36F degrees of temperature change each and every day.

    The last time I bought propane locally, it was $2.39 a gallon and I pay for what the pump reads. At the register, the taxes are then added. These pumps have similar regulations to those that gasoline or kerosene pumps have. A gallon of liquid propane is about 4 pounds each. At the local Wal-mart, those exchanges were about $15 each and the price includes taxes, if I am remembering correctly.

    Don’t get me started on what Alagasco or what municipal corporation’s utility departments charge for natural gas, here.

  4. E.M.Smith says:


    The problem with the 15 lb Blue Rhino type fill is that the same container is rated for 20 lbs and filled to 20 lbs by real propane fill stations… It’s not being done for safety, it is being done so the tank price is about the same and most folks won’t notice they are paying much more per lb / gallon.

    Blue Rhino Under-Filled Propane Tank Class Action Settlement

    Stueve Siegel Hanson was settlement class counsel in a nationwide class action lawsuit that alleged that Blue Rhino, together with certain competitors, reduced the amount of propane gas in cylinders sold to customers. The plaintiffs claimed that Blue Rhino did not fill cylinders to the proper level and failed to disclose the actual net weight or level of propane in the cylinders to customers. The reduced volume was not visible from an examination of the cylinder. The lawsuit sought to recover the money that Blue Rhino customers may have been overcharged due to Blue Rhino’s alleged conduct.

    The “class” (meaning mostly the lawyers) got $25 MILLION and the people got a label on the tank saying “15 lbs Propane” on a 20 lb tank…

  5. Bill S. says:

    I’m in southern CA, and I’ve been cooking on Weber propane grills for as long as I’ve been here. Kitchen stove is natural gas. I’d guess close to 50% usage each. Never cared about the price – I just like grilling.

  6. R. Shearer says:

    Ever try whale oil? Just kidding.

    Keep in mind that in many developing countries they don’t have indoor plumbing, especially sewage. Plumbed natural gas is a luxury that will have to wait. Many times, the tanks are filled with butane or even dimethyl ether.

  7. H.R. says:

    @E.M.: I found out in Florida that U-Haul has propane filling at a lot of their locations. Their prices are very reasonable and they meter the fill, so you get what you pay for. If you have a couple of tanks, one empty and the other getting low, metering makes it very convenient to fill both tanks and save a trip. Most of the fueling locations are open 7 days a week.

    I have a natural gas grill on the patio, so I didn’t have much experience with propane tanks. Then we got the travel travel trailer and it came with two 30# tanks. I was paying too much for propane until I found the Y’all-Haul solution… and it was Sunday and we needed propane.😳

    We used the Coleman kerosene stoves and lanterns when we tent-camped years ago and I liked then. What I am enjoying is reading about the ton of alternatives you and others have tried and suggested. Oh, a few years back, we put in a fire pit on the patio and I have a 30″ diameter, adjustable height cooking rack for it. I haven’t used it for cooking yet, but the recent comment threads (and State Park forest next door that allows gathering fallen wood) has me looking at using it for cooking. Nothing like steaks grilled over the coals of a hardwood fire!

  8. Sera says:

    I’ve also read that fuel stealing in these ME countries is rampant, so utilities will not lay lines in certain neighborhoods. Propane is the cheapest way for poor people to ‘pay as you go’.

  9. John F. Hultquist says:

    I realize gas taxes are high in CA and also up here in Washington State.
    The taxes were meant so users paid for highway programs.
    Then mission creep began. Monorails, bike lanes, and more were added to the needs list.
    Cost of DOT planning, materials, and labor went up, but taxes did not — for years.
    Two years ago WA State voters agreed to raise gas taxes (over 2 years).
    This is showing up all over the State, as highway projects are underway.

    Locally, our electricity is provided by the Columbia River Dams and is relatively inexpensive.
    Many rural houses are all-electric or propane assisted.

  10. E.M.Smith says:


    Yeah, that whole “Rule Of Law” thing matters too….


    Searching around here for online prices has been a real dud. It looks like the U-Haul is about $4 / gallon ( $3.99 ) and lower than many. Unclear what Suburban or Amerigas charge, then there’s what looks like some random gas stations at about $5-ish; yet see quotes of as low as $2.85 “near” but out in the country … but where they don’t say if that’s filling a car or a 20# can.

    Looks like the market is fractures and inefficient with different sub-groups buying where they have convenience. (Trailers at trailer places, homes / shops via delivery from majors, home users via tank exchange or a small retailer they already know…) So I’m the odd duck doing actual price discovery and market research….

    Needless to say I didn’t get the fill yet. Maybe tomorrow I’ll drive by Suburban and just ask them, on my way to the U-Haul place…

    @R. Shearer:

    Hmmm… Good point. In terms of up-front capital cost, a $25 cylinder is a lot cheaper than a gas line laid… Also easier to replace after the bombing raid or take with you when the revolutionary guard marches in to your town…

    @BIll S:

    Well, I’ve been grilling on the patio for years, just like you, because I like the flavor and the outdoorsy thing. What’s changed is I’m now looking at burners are important too and noticing the cost issues.

    Historically I’ve used wood / charcoal as that was the built in large pit thing. But a couple of years back I inherited a Webber propane (well, gave the kid $200 for it so he didn’t have to deal with it – daughter and fiance married and moved to an apartment… They had been tending the house while we were in Florida for almost 2 years… and had bought it new). Finally used up the tank, so now need to fill it. Figure at the same time I’ll branch off a burner set…

    I’ve been using the gasoline stove and it’s OK, but at first light in the morning to make coffee it’s just a bit more bother and delay than I want… so then I’m more inclined to the Trangia inside ;-)

  11. E.M.Smith says:

    On that corrupt government point:

    Interesting graph of perceived government corruption:


    Basically looks like USA, Canada, Australia / NZ, Japan, and Northern / Central Europe as not too corrupt, the rest of the world in various degrees descending to Hell Hole with Hispanic Diaspora, Muslim World, and Russia as the majority icky places.

  12. Larry Ledwick says:

    On the Propane sales direct from the tank, check out the larger tool rental places they often sell propane to their customers to run things like work site heaters etc. Since construction is a highly cost sensitive business, there should be significant effort to sell and competitive fuel rates to capture the rental contracts for the tools that use propane.

  13. kneel63 says:

    “Well, there are safety reasons why it isn’t a good idea to fill a bottle under pressure with a volatile liquid completely full when you can easily see 10 to 20C/18 to 36F degrees of temperature change each and every day. ”

    Propane tanks are typically already “de-rated” for capacity – a 5 gallon tank will be “filled” with 4 gallons (80% capacity is typical). That’s not a rip-off, it’s a safety thing, as you say.

    Unless you create a BLEVE – externally heat the tank, which then vents excess pressure and the venting freezes the valve open – you are extremely unlikely to get hurt using propane (vs, eg, gasoline). Even with a BLEVE, you can in most cases simply run away – propane is heavier than air, so liquid at STP will drop to the ground, then evaporate (and likely burn if flame is about). Run 10 yards away, there’s very little chance the liquid can reach you, unlike gasoline. Move further (or closer) depending on heat from the fire vs ambient temp vs safety concerns :-)

    I have seen a vehicle with a 70+ litre propane tank after a fire engulfed it – pretty much the only intact part left was the propane tank (as long as you don’t count paint and label damage). Still had some propane left in the tank too, although most was vented. Gasoline tank (metal) was destroyed and all the gasoline in the tank got burnt in the fire (also about 70 L capacity as it turns out)

  14. Larry Ledwick says:

    @kneel63, what you are describing is not a bleve, BLEVE stands for boiling liquid expanding vapor explosion, it occurs when a partially full liquified petroleum tank is exposed to direct flame impingment on the surface of the tank which does not have liquid fuel against it (ie the top), that heats the fuel and also weakens the structure of the tank and a point is reached where the pressure release valve reaches critical flow and cannot vent fuel fast enough to avoid massive pressure increase. Eventually the tank wall fails and the tank blows apart with a characteristic failure. It spits lengthwise along the tank axis and then tears circumferentially around the tank blowing both tank headers in opposite directions and smashing the torn part of the tank into the ground (the dance floor). This near instantaneous release of pressure causes boiling expansion of the remain fuel and it all burns almost instantly as it is exposed to air.

    This produces a massive concussion blast which will level everything near the tank.

    The signature of an impending bleve is the sound of the blow off vent rapidly rising in pitch as it approaches supersonic flow in the vent. This rising whistle means only one thing – RUN AWAY!

    BLEVE training film

  15. H.R. says:

    @Larry: Thanks for the propane-at-tool-rental tip. I’ll check it out in Florida. There was an ACE/True Value store with tool rental and propane right next door to the U-Haul place, but it was Sunday and they were closed. We stopped there first because the fill tank was right out front (wondered why there were no cars in the lot… oh, Closed Sundays). My guess is that they price-match, being right next door, but it will be easy enough to check out; park at one and walk next door to the other place to compare prices.

    @E.M: I’m finding propane prices are all over the place, too. I’ve also found that fill stations are can be spotty. There is a fill station about 1-1/2 miles up the road at a campground and it’s about 20% higher than an RV dealer that’s about 4-5 miles away. The next closest fill station is in the city and is about a 30-40 minute drive, depending on traffic. Then the next-next closest fill station is even farther away in another part of the city. But the propane exchanges are now ubiquitous – just about every Stop-N-Rob has one – there’s one within a 5 to 10 minute drive of any barbecuing city dweller, so I think that’s why there are fewer fill stations nowadays.

    Oh, Check the date on your propane tank. The tanks ‘expire’ (8? 10? years) and a fill station will not fill an out-of-date tank. So of course people take their out-of-date tanks to a self-serve tank exchange and get a full, in-date tank. Since the dud tanks are priced into the propane exchanges, I’d expect them to be almost if not always higher than fill stations.

  16. philjourdan says:

    Always loved grilling. Until I had to do it for 2 weeks due to no power! (After Isabel). Took me 6 months to start again.

    Even in a backwater place like the Old Dominion, Propane is pricey. I have Propane hot water (and fireplace) and it runs me between $4-5/gal. But at least during the power outage, we did have hot water!

  17. corev says:

    We are an propane/electric house (propane – heat, cooking, water heater and clothes drier) and electricity (heat pump, lights,fan motors and all the electronics). We came from an all natural gas house and preferred that to oil/electric. Our the average monthly propane average is ~1/3 that for electricity.

    Built ~20 years ago to that standard, our house uses just less than 400 (~300 -350) gallon/year. We pre-buy400 gallons in Oct/Nov each year as those are usually the months of lowest pricing, and get our partial tank topped off 2-3 times per year. Each year we have both a positive balance in our account and in the tank. Last year the rate was $2.21/gal and the year before it was $1.71/gal. The prices seem to average in the ~$2.00- 2.25/gal range.

    For those who don’t know it is cheaper to buy your propane tank than lease it from the supplier. Leasing ties you to a single supplier and when you own your tank you can shop pricing and timing. We started leasing, but soon realized paying off the tank would pay for itself in less than 2 years usage. Our salesman did me a favor at pay off by giving my annual 1st annual fill at the owner price saving me another $200+ of the tank purchase price.

  18. H.R. says:

    @corev: I realize the answer is specific to your locale, but how many companies are available to you to price shop?

    I’m asking because E.M. mentioned cheaper prices out in the boonies. Also, the last three places I worked had a lot of employees living out in the countryside, and a common thread in the break room was grousing (or celebrating a deal) about propane prices and who they were buying from. I had no interest in the topic at the time so didn’t pay attention to the details.

    My not-so-hidden agenda is finding good small-tank refill prices away from home, and I suspect that I might be smart to just pull off and fill my tanks when I see a refill place between cities. If it could save me $20 bucks, it would be well worth the stop.

    Hard to say, but you have actual experience and may give me some clue. I’m looking for a rule of thumb for best place (in general) to buy because I don’t want to spend a lot of time researching places and calling for prices as some places won’t be a long stay.

  19. corev says:

    H.R., we have ~5-6 home delivery suppliers for use. Many also fill small tanks at their main facilities. I also use Ace Hardware or BJs for my small tank refills (3-4 20 gal tanks, and 2 40 gall) tanks. I use the 20 gals for small heater BBQ and crab cooker and the 40s are used for a larger portable heater in my garage-mahal err work shop.

    IIRC the ACE/BJ costs are in the $.50-75 cents/gal higher than the home suppliers. Remember, they are being supplied by the same home delivery suppliers.

  20. H.R. says:

    Thanks, corev. That’s more than I would have guessed.😳

    It seems it’s worth it, so I’ll look up a few suppliers near easy-off/easy-on interchanges for my next trip and check out their prices. The money I save can go right into the gas tank of my gas hog, F250 V-10. 😜

  21. Soronel Haetir says:

    Also, on the topic of gasoline, for cooking you should be able to avoid the (federal) highway taxes entirely although finding a supplier will be more difficult than just driving down to your local station with a can. I do not know WA or CA law and so do not know if those states require even off-road use to pay the state taxes.

  22. cdquarles says:

    Around here, Tractor Supply Company is pretty good. Prices do vary, since the local part of our State and local sales and use taxes vary and vary considerably. The State rate for most items is 4% and that’s not changed in my lifetime and, if I am remembering correctly, not since it was first enacted in the 1920s or 30s. Every time that a rate change (up) gets proposed, voters shoot it down. The local parts vary due to local needs and whims of local voters.

  23. Robert says:

    Propane (generally a propane/butane mix) has substantially lower density than gasoline so you need 30-40% more ‘gallons’ for the same energy capacity. So given substantially higher price and safety of tanks Diesel and Gasoline should be the go-to energy sources for anything where smell is not an issue and self pressurisation is not needed (why not electric fuel pump?). Kerosene burners (vaporising fuel in hot metal cooker ring) are standard for cooking in a lot of the 3rd world, not high tech or difficult to operate.

  24. E.M.Smith says:

    Propane runs 4.2 lbs / gallon. I got my propane tank filled at the local U-Haul for $3.99 / gallon. It took 4.7 gallons. That works out to 19.74 pounds in a 20 lb tank. Not bad.

    While what is often sold is “LPG” and can be a significant part butane, this was advertized as “Propane”, so I suspect only minor butane content. The density tends to confirm that. Butane is 4.8 lbs / gallon. That would be 22.56 lbs in my 20 lb. tank…

    Gasoline is about 6 1/4 lbs / gallon while Diesel runs up near 8 lbs / gallon (or 1 pound / pint ).

    As the energy / pound is more or less proportional to weight, Diesel is about 2 x as energy dense as Propane.

    BUT, it is a whole lot more difficult to burn cleanly and odor free in a cooking stove… so best used in close burn spaces like an engine. Thus my Diesel car and Propane grill…

    Now the really interesting one is that last one you mentioned. Kerosene. It is almost as power dense as Diesel (and runs really well in Diesels and jet turbines) while not smelling when used for cooking. I’d be using it by preference were it available at a fair price without red die in California.

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