Our elected officials have mandated that all cell relay towers be retrofitted with propane-powered generators to keep our communications systems running in the event of a power outage or natural disaster.

The Environmental Protection Agency and California Air Resources Board have certified that propane engines are 75 percent cleaner than the current emissions standard.

CARB certifies the propane engine in Blue Bird type C buses to the lowest level of nitrous oxides (NOx) in the market.  Currently, there are four school bus manufacturers with propane-powered school buses: Blue Bird, Collins, IC and Thomas. The total cost of ownership of a propane powered school bus is less than compressed natural gas or electric counterparts.

California’s money would be best spent on replacing diesel school buses with propane-powered instead of electric vehicles because we can purchase three propane-powered buses for every one that is battery powered.

The Metropolitan Transportation Authority (Metro) recently – and surprisingly to me – agreed to buy 95 electric buses as a step toward an emissions-free fleet under a new goal of eliminating tailpipe emissions by 2030. Metro will spend more than $138 million on the buses, which will run on two Los Angeles County busways.

Downtown-based BYD Motors has nabbed a $66 million contract with Metro to build 60 of the electric buses, and Crookston, Minn.-based New Flyer of America Inc. nabbed $72 million worth of the business.

Metro also awarded a $26.5 million contract to Cummins Westport to build and deliver a new type of natural gas engine known as “near zero.” Gas advocates have said the engines will provide more immediate air-quality benefits than gradually transitioning to zero-emission technology.

Noticeable by its absence is propane. Metro could be replacing three times as many diesel school buses with propane.  Instead the agency is funding more expensive electric buses. 

And it is yet to be determined how safe the batteries are for our children and our environment.

Our nation’s ample supply of propane, and the fuel’s favorable total costs, combined for an impressive mix of environmental and economic sustainability.

To be clear, propane is a by-product of the refining process. Propane is the “portable gas” with its low-pressure 125 PSI – compared to natural gas CNG at 3,600 PSI.  Natural gas is ideally a pipeline fuel where propane is best known for its portability.

Over the past year, NOx awareness has increased due to the controversy over Volkswagen emissions. The Volkswagen Environmental Mitigation Trust was created to fund on-road vehicles with cleaner technology that reduces excess emissions of NOx. In 49 states a portion of these funds are being allocated to propane-powered school buses and the like.

California’s use of propane has been averaging 500 million gallons per year. There are more than 55 different propane-fueled products available in the market today that are used daily in California. Propane is working reliably and with a carbon intensity lower than diesel, gasoline and natural gas.

Propane is a current, abundant and inexpensive solution to our climate change challenges.

Stein is founder of PTS Staffing Solutions, a technical staffing agency that serves the energy industry.

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