N.C. may give natural gas vehicles an unfair boost  
BSTUART WEIDIE - Special to the Sun Herald
Gov. Phil Bryant and oil titan T. Boone Pickens are touting natural gas as Mississippi’s transportation fuel alternative. However, they are overlooking the world’s most viable alternative fuel, propane autogas.
Natural gas and propane autogas are both clean-burning, American-made fuels that significantly reduce greenhouse gas emissions and harmful pollutants. They both cost less per gallon than gasoline or diesel, but autogas is affordable to implement while for most Mississippi fleets, CNG is not.
Autogas powers over 17 million vehicles worldwide, making it the most widely used vehicle fuel after gasoline and diesel. In the state of Mississippi, autogas fleets include Coast Transit Authority; the cities of West Point and Starkville; Mississippi State University police; and the Pearl River, Oktibbeha and Jones County sheriff’s offices. Also, the State fire marshal is transitioning part of its fleet to propane autogas.
These fleets are saving thousands of dollars a month because autogas is less expensive than gasoline. Over the past five years, the cost differential has averaged more than $1.25 per gallon. At the same time, these fleets are contributing to cleaner air and national energy security. Autogas is 30 percent cleaner than gasoline, and 98 percent of our autogas is made in America.
On a per-gallon basis, natural gas is an affordable vehicle fuel. However, natural gas is much more expensive to implement than autogas. According to the U.S. Department of Energy, 15 to 20 autogas stations can be built for the cost of a single CNG station. For example, in 2011 Indiana covered the entire state with 115 autogas stations for the cost of just six small CNG stations.
In addition, converting a vehicle to run on CNG is much more expensive than converting to autogas. A light-duty CNG conversion costs $12,000 to $18,000, whereas autogas conversions for light-duty vehicles range from $4,000 to $8,000. In other words, about two autogas vehicles can be converted for the price of converting one CNG vehicle.
Another important distinction between autogas and CNG is the time it takes to fuel a vehicle. Autogas pumps as quickly as gasoline, while natural gas vehicles take much longer to fuel. Even a “fast-fill” CNG station can take up to half an hour, meaning more vehicle downtime and money lost for Mississippi fleets.
Our state and our country need transportation fuel options that address economics, the environment and energy security. Despite the fact that special interests are aggressively promoting natural gas with lobbying teams and advertising campaigns, fleets across the country are deploying thousands of autogas vehicles each year.
Autogas is simply a more economical alternative fuel and a more realistic option for the majority of Mississippi businesses and public agencies.
Stuart Weidie, is CEO of Mississippi-based Blossman Gas, president of Alliance AutoGas and the founder of Autogas for America. Visit www.allianceautogas.com for more information.


A misguided strategy to create demand for natural gas in North Carolina is turning into legislation that robs our state of a balanced market for alternative fuels.

Last week the state Senate Energy Legislative Research Commission unveiled a plan that would force all public school buses to run on compressed natural gas, or CNG, and would also force the state Department of Transportation to convert half of its pickup truck fleet to CNG. The plan completely excludes propane autogas, our nation’s most widely used alternative fuel.

Autogas powers 17 million vehicles worldwide. It is the third most common transportation fuel after gasoline and diesel, far outpacing natural gas. Both autogas and natural gas are clean, abundant and American-made. But unlike natural gas, autogas is affordable to implement.

One hundred propane autogas fueling stations could be installed in North Carolina, one in every single county, for the cost of just three CNG stations. Converting a vehicle to autogas costs a third as much as converting a vehicle to natural gas. In addition, autogas vehicles fill up as quickly as conventional gasoline vehicles, while natural gas vehicles take 30 minutes or more to fuel.

Our legislators should not be picking favorites; they should be ensuring that those in charge of our school bus and DOT fleets can choose the most economical and clean fuel available.

North Carolina fleets that are already using autogas include the Raleigh Police Department, the Buncombe County Sheriff’s Office, Davidson County Transportation Department, Gaston County Access, Iredell County Area Transportation System, the Iredell County Sheriff’s Office, Mountain Mobility of Asheville, the Town of Knightdale and the Biltmore Estate. These fleets are making the shift without a legislative mandate, because switching to autogas makes good business sense. They’re reducing emissions and using an American-made fuel while saving more than $1.50 per gallon compared to gasoline (Alliance AutoGas fleet customers get 85-90 percent of the range of gasoline or diesel vehicles).

Meanwhile, the state Senate has declined to hear a presentation from the propane industry.

Our industry representatives typically hear complaints like, “Propane follows oil prices and can be too expensive.” It is true that propane historically follows oil prices, but propane trades at anywhere from 50 to 75 percent of the price of crude oil. Autogas prices over the past two years have averaged $1.58 less per gallon than gasoline.

Our legislature should be more careful about picking favorites when it comes to alternative fuel technologies; it should not distort the marketplace in favor of special interests. When it comes to clean, American-made alternative fuels, North Carolina’s fleets should be free to make their own natural selection.

Stuart Weidie is the CEO of Blossman Gas, president of Asheville-based Alliance AutoGas and the founder of Autogas for America. More information is at www.allianceautogas.com.

SOURCE NewsObserver

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