Propane Snub, Vol. II: “A Shame and an Injustice”

Propane powers this Ford F-150, but gets left out of current legislation on alternative fuel vehicles. (image: pickuptrucks.com)

The Senate is looking at legislation that would put $6 billion into the development and promotion of alt-fuel vehicles. But as we wrote last week, propane was left out of their considerations. Trade groups felt snubbed. The money is marked for natural gas and plug-in electrical cars. But shouldn’t LPG cars get some sugar, too?

An editorial posted on Bloomberg’s Business Week makes the case, pointing to propane’s long history powering vehicles. Car fleets in California were running on LPG in the 1920s, with Midwestern cities moving to propane-powered public transportation in the 1950s.

In addition, the common internal combustion engine can be easily adapted to run on propane — “only a few modifications must be made to the engine,” says one source. Switching a conventional car to run on battery power requires “a revolution” in car manufacturing, the editorial argues.

Critics may point out that no-combustion electric cars have zero emissions, compared to propane vehicles. But the writer, Luigi Fraschini, says that generating electricity almost always requires combustion — creating emissions from a smokestack, if not from the car’s tailpipe.

Fraschini gives Jack Roush, whose Roush Enterprises is a big player in propane conversions, the last word:

Propane autogas historically costs around 30 percent less than gasoline, and is as clean as natural gas, but without the harmful methane emissions. Propane is available ‘right here, right now,’ and I feel that any alternative fuel legislation would do our country an injustice if it were to pass into law without including propane auto gas…

Want the fine print on the legislation before the Senate? Get out your reading glasses for the Promoting Electric Vehicles Act of 2010 and the Promoting Natural Gas and Electric Vehicles Act of 2010.

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