Does Propane Have a Role in the President’s New Energy Diet?

Pres. Barack Obama examined an all-electric vehicle Friday in Maryland, where he announced the National Clean Fleets Partnership. (image: whitehouse.gov)

One week ago today, Pres. Barack Obama called on the country to cut oil imports by one third by 2025. It’s a lofty goal that involves tapping more of the domestic energy supply and burning more alternative fuels. And one particular focus for the administration is the gas tanks on the country’s commercial fleet vehicles, which used close to 4 billion gallons of fuel in 2009.

“So that’s why we’re launching a National Clean Fleets Partnership,” the president said in a follow-up speech in Maryland on Friday. “If you’re a business that needs to transport goods, then I’m challenging you to replace your old fleet with a clean energy fleet.” Companies that sign on will receive technical assistance, research and development support, and a carwash from Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood, Obama said to laughter.

The president asked, and the country’s fleets answered.

That same Friday, five companies that operate some 275,000 vehicles — AT&T, FedEx, Pepsi, UPS, and Verizon — announced they were signing on as charter members of the partnership. They plan to put more than 20,000 “advanced technology” vehicles on the road, as one strategy in displacing more than 7 million gallons of oil over an unspecified period of time.

The National Clean Fleets Partnership takes a reduce-and-replace approach to cutting oil from the American energy diet: Using more efficient vehicles to slash consumption and using alternative fuels to replace gasoline and diesel.

Where does propane fit in the new agenda? Poised to play its part, the Propane Education & Research Council (PERC) says today.

The fuel hits the presidential trifecta of being domestically sourced, cheaper than gasoline and greener than many other fuels, according to PERC. In addition, propane has the widest reach of any alternative fuel, with an autogas station in every state, serving the country’s estimated 270,000 on-road LPG vehicles. The list of companies that put autogas into their fleet includes Frito-Lay, Schwan’s, and ThyssenKrupp Elevator.

Roy Willis, president and CEO at PERC, offered propane as willing and ready to power the fleet:

The propane industry has invested millions of dollars in research and development to bring new fleet applications fueled by propane autogas to the market. Working with our manufacturing partners, fleet managers have many propane autogas products to choose from that help achieve sustainable environmental goals and decrease our country’s dependence on foreign oil without sacrificing performance.

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