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Propane, an Available, Plentiful, Affordable Solution to the Gasoline Crisis – EXCLUSIVE VIDEO INTERVIEW

Part 1 of a series that examines how the U.S. can rid itself of gasoline dependency. For an overview of this investigation CLICK HERE.

By Marc J. Rauch
Exec. Vice President/Co-Publisher
Originally published June 22, 2008 and updated January 15, 2011

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Roy W. Willis, President & CEO of the Propane Education & Research Council
A couple of weeks ago I had the opportunity to sit down over breakfast with Roy W. Willis, President and CEO of the Propane Education & Research Council, to talk about propane as a vehicle fuel. Roy and I were at the Hyatt Regency in Washington, DC; the site of the 2008 Propane Days National Conference. This article features the video recording that I made of that conversation. Although I originally planned to only use the video as a reference source, I found that it contained too much great information to be transcribed. Fortunately, Roy Willis generously consented to allowing The Auto Channel to use the video in its entirety. The video is presented below in two parts.

There are, right now in America, a couple of very workable fuel solutions to the on-going energy crisis that we seem to be facing; and those solutions are something that almost every home owner and apartment-dweller uses on at least a semi-regular basis: CNG (compressed natural gas) and propane.

In the overview of this study I set forth the REQUISITES FOR A GASOLINE ALTERNATIVE FUTURE. To recap, we need an ample supply of vehicles that can reliably utilize an alternative fuel; we need ample distribution and supply outlets for the alt fuel(s); and we need abundant resources (preferably located on the North American continent) to ensure a continuous supply of the raw material to produce the alt fuel.

Next, we need available, plentiful, and affordable environment-friendly fuel solutions to the gasoline predicament (regardless of how or why the crisis exists and which conspiracy theory you subscribe to).

THE CONTENDERS for the fuel solutions are:

• Electric (straight plug-in battery or fuel-cell related)
• Hydrogen - internal combustion engine
• Solar
• Ethanol
• Bio-diesel
• Compressed air
• Compressed Natural Gas (CNG)
• Propane.

• Batteries are not yet a reality for highway-speed driving and distant trips, although they may be by the end of this year if Phoenix Motor Cars, Miles Electric, Tesla Motors and Think Electric Cars actually deliver on their promises of delivering their respective cars and trucks. However, none of these auto manufacturers are major auto producers and their ability to consistently deliver reliable vehicles in volume are as uncertain as the battery technology itself. Because hydrogen fuel-cell vehicles also rely on batteries, this is also only a projection for the future. At some point batteries will undoubtedly figure in as one of, if not the main method to power vehicles, assuming that an electric generation “crisis” doesn’t replace the perceived gasoline crisis.

• Internal combustion hydrogen engines, my personal long range favorite (and Jay Leno’s too), appears to be a dead issue since none of the other major manufacturers want to support this BMW led initiative. Granted, there are also significant issues related to the current hydrogen distribution infrastructure. So this may never be a workable solution or part of the mixed bag of solutions.

• Solar power for vehicles, while the sexiest of all solutions, is just a novelty and will remain so until solar cell technology and battery technology improves substantially.

• Bio-diesel? Wow, imagine creating diesel fuel from algae? That’s just what some people, like Valcent Products (VCTPF.OB) and Solazyme are doing, and it will be fantastic if it’s proven and can be delivered. Bio-diesel from plants we don’t eat, like ethanol, can be great once production gets ramped up, but it’s not there yet.

• Compressed air engine technology is sort of the late-comer to the party. It’s as sexy a solution as solar, but not as well known. India’s Tata Motors and Spain’s Air Car Factories are currently working on air-powered vehicles for public release, so they say, by 4th quarter 2008. We hope to visit the Spanish group this Fall for a look-see, so stay tuned. For now, who knows, but it is a sexy idea.

Only three of the contending solutions mentioned above can provide the answer that we need now to start the revolution: ethanol, CNG and propane.

Of the three, ethanol is my hands-down personal favorite for a solution that is the closest we will ever get to a single-bullet alternative to gasoline and diesel. However, because of the enormous anti-ethanol efforts paid for by the petroleum oil industry, ethanol may never be as widely accepted as it should be. The oil industry is particularly frightened by ethanol because they can't control it: ethanol can be produced very simply and easily from a wide variety of commonly grown items such as corn, sugar, cattails, switchgrass, buffalo gourds and sea weed.

On the other hand, CNG and propane - which can also be produced exclusively from domestic sources - does require oil industry production facilities and distribution, and therefore it can be oil industry controlled. In fact, the primary negative aspect of CNG and propane is that its success as an engine fuel substitute will ensure the continued success of the same domestic oil/gasoline entities that are responsible for creating the dire energy situation we are now in.

This report will cover CNG and propane. Ethanol is discussed in great detail elsewhere on

Although very similar in nature and in the manner in which they are found; CNG and propane have distinct advantages that separate them:

CNG has a lower price per gallon (from about $1.25 to $2.75) and greater domestic reserves. Propane provides greater energy output per unit of measurement and offers more existing consumer outlets (there are literally thousands of propane dealers located throughout the country, in virtually every city and town).

The prime requisite to make No New Gasoline-Powered Vehicles By 2014 a reality is vehicles that can reliably use an alternative fuel source. Unbeknownst to a great many Americans is that most if not all major automakers already produce vehicles that use CNG and/or propane, and they’ve been doing so for years. The list includes GM, Ford and Chrysler. Perhaps even more surprising is that many of the models, including Honda’s Civic GX are manufactured in North America. So obviously the technology is proven and the car companies know how to make them.

Unfortunately, nearly all CNG and propane cars are shipped overseas, and the domestic producers of these vehicles are extremely reluctant to increase or shift allocation to their fellow Americans. While no one from the car companies will give you a straight answer as to why this is true, in light of the burgeoning U.S. demand for these vehicles, it seems to me they don’t want to disrupt the efforts they’ve been expending to introduce forthcoming gasoline/electric hybrid or electric fuel-cell models. Consequently, we’re left in the lurch while under used production facilities, that could be building more CNG and propane vehicles, are laying off American workers. A flood of phone calls, emails, faxes and letters may help.

As I noted above, I had the opportunity to talk with one of the propane industry’s leaders, Roy W. Willis of the Propane Education & Research Council. The complete conversation can be watched by clicking on the PLAY buttons immediately below.

Click PLAY to watch the Roy Willis interview

Click PLAY to hear Roy talk about about a new propane initiative

The following is exclusive video coverage of the propane presentation given at the 2008 Alternative Car and Transportation Expo in Santa Monica, California. The presentation was made by Leslie Brown Garland from Western Propane Gas Association. Leslie provides additional in-depth information and statistics about the use of propane as a vehicle fuel.

Click PLAY to watch video

• Outside of North America, liquefied propane vehicle fuel is known as autogas, and it enjoys great popularity in Australia, throughout Europe and the United Kindom, Hong Kong, India, South Korea, Serbia, the Philippines and Turkey. In Australia autogas is about half the cost of gasoline in urban areas.

• Propane-powered vehicles are currently used in full-size vehicle fleets (buses and passenger cars) throughout the United States, including significant usage numbers in California, Texas, Florida, New York, Arizona, and Pennsylvania.

• Existing conventional gasoline-powered cars and trucks can be converted to use propane. Federal and State tax incentives can offset the cost of conversion, depending upon your state.

• Propane fueled vehicles may also qualify for use in your state’s carpool (HOV) lanes and may be exempted from highway or bridge tolls.

• Propane is on the Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) list of federally approved clean-burning fuels. Furthermore, propane is contained in a sealed, pressure-tight system at all times, and there are no evaporative emissions. This eliminates a significant source of secondary pollution.

• Propane is clean burning. Tests conducted by the EPA show that propane engines produce 60 percent less ozone-forming emissions than reformulated gasoline. Recent tailpipe emissions tests performed on Orange County (California) Transit Authority's propane buses showed they emitted 87 percent less total hydrocarbons, 50 percent less nitrogen oxides, and 40 percent less particulate matter than gasoline-fueled buses.

• More than 90% of all propane used in the US is produced domestically.

For more information about propane and the Propane Education & Research Council visit