Fuel choices--Do you feel propane is an appropriate alternative to gas or diesel fuel?

Mike Ward, executive director,Virginia Petroleum Council (Richmond, Va.)

In recent years, much attention has focused on alternative fuels. References to "clean alternative fuels" have been aimed at business, government and motorists as a way to promote primarily electric or natural-gas vehicles-that is, vehicles that use something besides gasoline or diesel. The problem with this definition is that it assumes gasoline can't be a clean fuel, and that's just wrong.

Six times over the past 20 years, the oil industry has introduced progressively cleaner burning fuel: 1) Removing lead from gas. 2) Cutting gas' vapor pressure to reduce volatility. 3) Adding oxygen regionally to reduce carbon-monoxide emissions. 4) Removing 85 percent of diesel sulfur to reduce soot and smoke. 5) Introducing reformulated gasoline to reduce ground-level ozone. 6) Introducing cleaner-burning gas in California. The industry has even proposed a plan to reduce sulfur in gas in regions seeking to lower sulfur-emission levels.

Other advantages are obvious for gas and diesel use: 1) Cost. Price-compare a barrel of crude oil vs. a barrel of soda, juice or bottled water. It's probably the cheapest liquid you can buy. 2) Availability. A variety of locations now market gasoline. Plus, the system to transport it and distribute it has been constantly improved. 3) Familiarity. Mechanics typically favor the internal-combustion engine. 4) Reliability. People know how gasoline and diesel vehicles run, how they sound and how they drive.

What I have described here is a clean, efficient, abundant, economical fuel. It's hard to say no to vehicles that run on it.

Baron Glassgow, director of field services, National Propane Gas Association (Scottsdale, Ariz.)

The EPA and other regulatory agencies are increasingly concerned about controlling emissions at the source. Industry has made great strides in controlling emissions from modern engines. However, substantial further reductions won't be possible. No matter how completely gasoline burns, it inevitably produces pollutants that form the haze over our cities.

Only one alternative fuel-propane-is proven through widespread use. Chemically, propane is C3H8-one of the lightest, simplest hydrocarbons. Propane's simple chemical structure makes it among the cleanest of any alternative fuel. In fact, propane-fueled engines are so low in noxious emissions that they are used to power forklifts that operate indoors.

Propane's benefits don't stop at the tailpipe. Because propane is in a sealed pressure-tight system at all times, it releases no evaporative emissions as gasoline does. This eliminates a significant source of secondary pollution. In addition, because propane is non-toxic and cannot pollute the water table, it is exempt from the stringent Environmental Protection Agency regulations on oil and gasoline underground storage tanks. Refueling with propane can be as easy as replacing an empty cylinder with a full one, taking only seconds with no risk of toxic spills.

By using propane gas in place of less environmentally friendly fuels, you can address such pressing issues as acid rain, the "greenhouse effect," urban smog and the thinning ozone layer in a very tangible way. Plus you can maintain a high level of engine performance.

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