What’s the game plan?

November 1, 2002 By    

If and when our country’s leaders ever manage to approve a new national energy policy, the propane industry stands to reap a healthy share of the billions of dollars in incentives proposed for alternative fuel use in the years ahead.

When that legislation finally becomes law, what is our industry’s game plan to maximize this golden opportunity?

I fear the honest answer is that we don’t have one.

The troops in the Washington office of the National Propane Gas Association (NPGA) have been effectively hammering for this legislation all year long. Both houses of Congress have included an eyebrow-raising assortment of tax credits and grants that could stimulate propane use nationwide.

The proposed incentives come in many forms, with no clear vision as to what will make the final cut. There are credits proposed for energy suppliers. Credits for homeowners who save energy by installing smart meters to track energy use and for buying energy-efficient appliances. Credits for manufacturers and builders who produce energy-efficient homes. Credits for alternative motor fuel use and for building alternative fueling stations.

Yet if Congress were to magically end five months of wrangling and pass the bill today, we would be no more prepared to cash in than we were five or 10 years ago. We’d be debating the same old chicken-and-egg issues about vehicle availability, supply infrastructure and marketing strategies that have been worn thin over the years.

Between NPGA, PERC, PVC and RDAC we’ve got enough acronyms to supply alphabet soup to committee meetings through next winter. And while each has made notable strides in their respective fields of expertise in the last few years, our industry still lacks that unified vision that can command the support of the propane marketers with the most at stake.

I’m not suggesting that any one individual or group should be empowered to make such critical decisions. But I do think that a lack of definition between the various groups has hamstrung this industry for a long time. We need leadership and effective collaboration and we need it fast.

Of course, prodding change from traditional approaches brings with it a potential for conflict among the hierarchy. But if we fail to capitalize on the immense opportunities being laid at our doorstep, it really won’t matter who’s nose gets out of joint.

Our competitors will end up holding the brass ring.

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