Wild western ways

June 14, 2018 By    

As states like California push for clean energy, propane must spread its message: Fighting electricity. Considering the prospects of renewable propane. Embracing autogas as the fuel of choice for your fleet vehicles.

Hot propane industry topics were not lacking at the Western Propane Trade Show and Convention in Reno, Nevada. The May event serves as a credible backdrop for impactful issues that can gain legs in the Wild West and spread across the country, with the propane industry centered in the crosshairs.

Tucker Perkins, president and CEO of the Propane Education & Research Council (PERC), took to labeling propane’s primary competitor “mythical electricity.” It is born from claims that it’s clean, cheap and reliable – sourced from “honey and walnuts.”

Perkins’ point was well taken, though, as he tried to rally the propane marketer troops to control their messages, no matter where they do business.

“It’s time for us to take charge of the fuel we represent,” he says. “If you don’t begin to advocate for this fuel, we won’t have much of a business to come to in 15-20 years.”

Perkins, completing his first year as head of the industry’s checkoff program, delivers a consistent message as he travels the country. But in Reno, just across the border from California, it seemed to resonate even more, as this region tends to push the environmental-focused agenda harder than anywhere else.

Which is why Perkins talked renewable propane, with production capabilities already in the U.S. and abroad. While the world now looks to the United States as a key source of conventional supply, some environmental and regulatory bodies look down on fossil fuels. Instead, they favor renewable energy sources like wind and solar, and also now the growing popularity of gaseous and liquid renewable fuels.

“We are the lowest carbon fossil fuel that works,” Perkins counters.

Later, while referencing renewable propane, he adds, “The reason we’re talking about it is, if you don’t have a renewable component, you won’t be part of the conversation in the next five years.”

Tell your story

The many propane-fueled applications and available industry data help support Perkins when he says, “We have an awesome story.”

Like when he says 15,000 propane-fueled school buses take 900,000 kids to school every day during the year. Or that 25,000 propane mowers are in operation, each unit burning 800-1,000 gallons per year and giving commercial cutters an environmentally-focused advantage over their competitors. And then there are water heaters.

“I can build an entire campaign around water heaters,” says Perkins, citing energy efficiency and emissions benefits, and comforts to the consumer as features to share with homebuilders and remodelers.

Plus, there are other possibilities for marketers to add customers and grow gallons, such as with engines for the agricultural market to displace diesel applications; autogas direct injection and aftermarket conversions; propane generators for emergency backup or continuous power; and material handling applications in the industrial sector.

With autogas, Perkins urged marketers to use low-cost propane in their own delivery and service vehicles. Otherwise, he says, the industry is “leaving $220 million on the table in fuel savings alone.”

“We need to understand why our industry does not embrace it,” he adds.

The topic of attracting and training employees has become top-of-mind for the industry. Courtney Gendron, senior programs manager for the Certified Employee Training Program at PERC, added perspective when she showed a slide of kindergartners using tablets in the classroom.

“We need to find ways to engage and educate today’s workforce, so they can come and have a career in the propane industry,” says Gendron, who’s adapting industry training programs to match the needs of today’s employees.

Mainly, out west and beyond, Perkins’ mission as the council’s new leader has been to challenge marketers to rethink everything they do.

“The reason we’re going to be successful,” he says, “is because of you.”

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About the Author:

Brian Richesson is the editor in chief of LP Gas Magazine. Contact him at brichesson@northcoastmedia.net or 216-706-3748.

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