Propane vehicles
DOE awards RRC $12.6 million
Sep 10, 2009 | 636 views | 0 0 comments | 8 8 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Texans will soon be breathing easier with the addition of 882 clean-burning propane-fueled vehicles to fleets operating at schools, state agencies and local government entities. In May 2009, the Railroad Commission of Texas — the state’s energy agency — applied for American Recovery and Reinvestment Act funding through the U.S. Department of Energy’s Clean Cities grant program. The DOE announced that the Railroad Commission was one of the awardees. The Commission was awarded $12.6 million, with a match of $37.7 million from the grant participants, for the purchase of 245 propane school buses and 637 light– and medium–duty propane trucks, vans and cars. The total project is $50.4 million.

Railroad Commissioner Michael Williams said, “Schools and local governments have shown tremendous interest in alternative fuels. This grant helps support their efforts and manage the initial cost of switching to a cleaner, domestically produced fuel. Clearly, these entities want to reduce tailpipe emissions from diesel exhausts and be responsible with taxpayers’ dollars. As an added benefit, propane is domestically produced, so the schools and local governments are helping improve our energy security, too.”

With this funding, the Commission proposes to reduce U.S. petroleum consumption by 12.1 million gallons, while increasing consumption of propane by 15.9 million gallons. The majority of propane is produced in North America as a by-product of natural gas processing. What’s more, the clean-burning fuel consumed by the new vehicles will reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 78,000 tons, compared to diesel engines. The grant will also create or retain 149 green jobs. Public awareness and acceptance of propane as a transportation fuel will be increased by the deployment of the vehicles by the 40 grant participants, which are qualified school districts and public agencies. The grants will cover the manufacturer-quoted total incremental cost of 882 vehicles: 245 Blue Bird dedicated propane school buses, 24 medium-duty trucks and vans, and 613 propane-fueled light-duty vehicles. Fleets new to propane will be located near experienced propane fleets to increase their chances of success.

“We are pleased to learn that one of the Department of Energy’s Clean Cities grants has been awarded to the Texas Railroad Commission for reduction of petroleum use, increased consumption of propane and reduced emissions throughout the state of Texas. Rush Bus Centers has been actively working with school districts around the state to assist in submitting applications for this grant money. We understand that about half of the grant will go to school districts to help offset the incremental cost of purchase of this newer technology, allowing districts to increase the number of Blue Bird and Clean Fuel USA propane-powered buses to their fleets. The real benefits, however, are the ability to reduce emissions, providing cleaner air for our children and to take advantage of the state’s abundant natural resources, reducing our long-term dependency on foreign oil. We congratulate the Texas Railroad Commission for their work on this important issue,” said W. Marvin Rush, chairman of Rush Enterprises, Inc. Rush Enterprises operates 14 Rush Bus Centers in Texas.

The grant also includes $2,858,048 to install 35 propane refueling stations on properties owned by partner fleets. The stations will allow the fleets to lower their costs by buying fuel in bulk, access federal motor fuel excise tax credits, refuel at the times most convenient to their schedules, and model successful use of propane to nearby peers. Deployment of the stations will be rapid, because they will be installed on land already owned by the participating agencies, have minimal environmental impact, and require minimal special permitting.

“This grant is especially exciting because it is all encompassing. The new vehicles are ensured convenient refueling with onsite stations. And because the refueling equipment will be manufactured in Georgetown, Texas, the state will benefit from the creation of jobs,” noted Curtis Donaldson, CEO and president of CleanFuel USA, a manufacturer of propane refueling equipment and propane engine systems.

Williams is a long-time advocate for alternative-fuel school buses. More than 1,750 propane school buses currently operate in the state. In 2006, Williams joined other clean-air proponents in securing $895,000 to develop and certify a factory propane school bus, and he proudly hosted the 2007 unveiling of Blue Bird’s Propane “Vision” school bus, the first propane school bus offered by a major manufacturer in the U.S. since 2002. Since 2007, Williams has been educating districts across the state about the benefits of propane buses compared to traditional diesel buses — lower emissions, less expensive fuel, lower maintenance costs and decreased engine noise. Schools have responded enthusiastically, purchasing over 200 propane buses in the past 18 months.
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