Local green energy movements are a key battleground for propane

October 23, 2020 By    

This industry celebrates its 110th anniversary this year. During this journey, we have seen a variety of ways in which this versatile fuel can be used.

A unique and attractive aspect of propane is that it is, relative to diesel and gasoline, a more environmentally friendly fuel. Its use results in lower carbon emissions due to its lower carbon content. In this day and age of heightened discussion and awareness of these issues in the general populous, this advantage provides great opportunities to expand the footprint of propane as a fuel source.

Auto emissions are the single largest source of greenhouse gases in the U.S. Argonne National Laboratory estimates converting a vehicle from conventional fuels to propane could lead to a 10 percent reduction of greenhouse gas emissions – a significant advantage that consumers should know. They should also understand these aspects of propane’s environmental profile:

  • Propane is not a greenhouse gas.
  • It is not harmful to fresh water, salt water or ecosystems.
  • It is not harmful to underwater plant life or marine life.
  • It is not harmful to the soil if spilled on the ground.
  • Its vapor does not cause air pollution.

Propane is also listed as an alternative fuel under the 1990 Clean Air Act. I had the opportunity to serve as president of the first International Alternative Fuels Conference in Milwaukee in the early 1990s.

The industry has come a long way since then. Back in the early 1990s, autogas technology was still in its early stages. The only game in town was conversion kits. There were no OEM vehicles in the U.S. market. The infrastructure for fueling was also a challenge that was still being overcome. The industry had done a lot of work expanding the fueling infrastructure in Canada, but the U.S. side was still under development.

Over the years, we have seen the rollout of OEM propane vehicles, a more robust fueling infrastructure, better technology and a stronger appetite for propane-fueled vehicles in the U.S.

According to Argonne National Laboratory, as of 2010, there were more than 13 million propane-fueled vehicles in use worldwide. But only a fraction, fewer than 200,000, were in the U.S. That is changing as we speak. If the world’s acceptance of propane-fueled vehicles is any indication, the future growth of propane-powered vehicles is bright.

Despite these advances, there is still work to do every day to inform the public of the environmental benefits of this fuel. There is a documented trend at the local level to enact local ordinances, codes and regulations to favor electricity over a variety of fuels, perhaps to the disadvantage of propane.

As an industry member, you need to be cognizant of this trend and track local ordinances, codes and regulations that may do damage to the propane industry. Your local state propane association, the National Propane Gas Association and the Propane Education & Research Council are excellent resources to assist you in pushing back on these efforts with empirical data and strategic advice and counsel. Don’t go it alone. Seek support when the need arises.

All politics are local. As a local business, you need to keep track of local laws that may seek to curtail the use of propane. It appears these efforts are misguided. With proper planning and coordination with stakeholders, you have a good opportunity to avoid these unnecessary roadblocks to the continued success of your company.

John V. McCoy is with McCoy, Leavitt, Laskey LLC. His firm represents industry members nationally. He can be reached at 262-522-7007.

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