WASHINGTON - Propane: Not your grandfather's home heating fuel any more?
Actually, propane, or liquefied petroleum gas, still is known in many parts of the country as the volatile stuff in the oblong tank out behind the shed. And that image is just one obstacle for people who tout it as a top alternative fuel for modern cars and trucks.
'There's a perception of us as an old-fashioned industry,' said Roy Willis, president of the Propane Education and Research Council, a 2-year-old industry group charged with changing perceptions and finding ways to expand propane use, especially in vehicles.
The council, funded by the first congressionally approved, national energy check-off program, has arranged research projects with General Motors, Ford Motor Co. and others with ties to the automobile industry.
And the council wants more cooperation.
While ethanol, methanol, compressed natural gas and now designer fuels get much of the ink about alternatives for cars and trucks, there already are more propane-fueled vehicles in use than any of the others. Most were converted.
The federal government is pushing for greater use of alternative fuels as a way to reduce reliance on imported oil, cut vehicle pollution and limit greenhouse gas emissions.
So a top council goal is to make sure that, as the market for alternative-fueled vehicles grows, propane gets its share.