So, I’m making my rounds with news sources today, and I ran across this. Police Departments Powering Up With Propane . I’m already thinking to myself, “oh boy, another story about how we’re saving the world and lowering our dependence on foreign fuel.” But, I go to read the details.
The lead para…..”America’s police aren’t just fighting crime these days, some are helping in the fight for independence from foreign oil. And they’re saving a few bucks in the process.” So, I nailed it. It goes on to talk about how propane is cheaper than gasoline and how the conversion of gasoline engines to propane engines cost $5,800 but they’re trying to train their mechanics to do it themselves so the cost will only be $4000. It continues to talk about how Greenville, SC has a fleet of about 100 such vehicles and how other agencies are driving them, too. It also talks about most of our propane is domestically produced. Story quotes 85%, other sources have it at about 90%.
So, what’s wrong with this? Well, I could break it down to energy generated by different fuels, or even talk about the properties of propane and how its much more dangerous than other fuels (its heavy as a gas and tends not to dissipate). But, that isn’t the problem. The problem is what the story didn’t state, but implied. The implication is this could be an effective alternative for this nation’s dependency on foreign fuel. Well, let’s look at that.
Propane is made by one of two processes. Either by the refinement of oil to gasoline or natural gas processing. Both require propane be extracted from the fuels. These 3 sentences tell us all we need to know. Obviously, using the propane from the oil refining won’t help us in our dependency of foreign oil, because oil is necessary for the process and we have to make gasoline or heating oil to get it! So, that approach would be ……. well, stupid. So, let’s look at the other, getting it from natural gas. The DOT says there are “Approximately 300,000 vehicles in the U.S. are fueled with LPG.” According to RITA , there are 256,046,950 motor vehicles(things with tires that drive on the roads) alone. So, if we only increase our NG production 1000 fold, we may have enough propane to fuel our nation’s highway transportation. Well, we’re not going to do that anytime soon. It isn’t a viable solution to our oil dependency. It isn’t scalable.
So, if we increase our propane use for transportation, we’ll create a shortage elsewhere and thus drive the cost of propane up, eliminating the savings by using propane. Other than grilling, what do we use propane for? Those of us that live in a rural area without access to NG use the stuff for heating. Be sure to write Greenville and other asinine government entities and thank them for making an already expensive heating fuel even more expensive and creating a hardship for people already suffering from this economic crisis that we’re in. People such as my brothers.
This is just one of the continuous vapid thoughts about our fuel and energy discussion. Ideas such as this propane for auto fuel does nothing more than create hardships elsewhere and does nothing to address our energy and fuel needs. We need to stop doing this crap! Propane should be used for heating where NG isn’t available. NG should be used for heating and cooking and only as a supplement in electricity production to meet peak load demand. We need to quit planting the whirly-gigs and sun beam absorbers because we’re driving the cost of NG up for the people that need it for heat and cooking. Propane is already expensive enough. We need to quit pouring our food down fuel tanks because its driving the cost of food up! If we want to eliminate our dependence on foreign oil, do the obvious thing and start drilling our own! And most importantly, quit screwing over our fellow citizens in our quixotic quest for a viable alternative fuel. At the very least try something that at least has a theoretical chance of success.