Thousands of dollars are being saved by the city of West Point with the use of propane auto gas in its police vehicles instead of gasoline, which is benefitting the environment and helping the city's economy.
The announcement came Wednesday about the conversion of eight 2009 West Point police cruisers from gasoline to bi-fuel propane from police chief Bobby Lane, assistant chief Avery Cook, mayor Scott Ross and Mark Denton, vice president of business development for Alliance AutoGas.
Propane, one of the world's most popular alternative fuels, gives off much fewer emissions that harm the environment, burning cleanly and producing 20 percent less carbon monoxide, 40 percent less nitrogen oxide and more than 10 percent less carbon dioxide.
West Point is one of only three cities in the state to receive a grant of $51,800 from the Mississippi Development Authority's energy department for the conversion of its police cruisers to alternative fuel. West Point grant writer Melanie Busby said this grant funds the installation of the fuel tanks and trains mechanics and drivers. Alliance AutoGas is providing fuel pumps for the propane tanks as part of the city's agreement to purchase propane from the company.
Ross said it is projected that the savings to the city each year by using propane-powered police vehicles is $26,100.
“(This was) an ongoing project for West Point that fits in well with other city initiatives regarding other environmentally-friendly actions of the city- our recycling program being a primary one,” Ross said. “This project is the first time we have been a part of anything dealing with alternative fuel...Not only is it environmentally-friendly, but it will result in significant annual savings on fuel costs to the city.”
Lane said he's delighted that eight of the police department's cruisers can burn cleaner energy, can save the department thousands on fuel costs and run just as well on propane as vehicles that are powered 100 percent by gasoline.
“Anytime that you have a product that gives you good quality services and cost less is a great thing,” Lane said.
Cook, who has been training officers how to use the propane tanks, talked about the advantages of alternative fuel for the police cruisers. He said with propane being produced in the United States, suppliers don't have to be dependent upon foreign countries for propane. Other advantages are that propane is cheaper and safer, helps engines last up to two times longer, has government incentives, and is protected under the Energy Policy Act of 1992, Cook said.
Denton said Alliance AutoGas uses certified conversion centers for the propane conversions, puts the refueling infrastructure on site and makes sure vehicle operators go through driver and safety training. The propane refueling station is located at the Public Works Department in West Point. Denton said Alliance AutoGas continue to provide “turnkey energy solutions” for customers wanting to save money and save the environment.
“I always like to tell people it's all about the three E's,” Denton said. “The first E is energy-dependance. Propane is 90 percent domestically produced; 60 percent of that comes from natural gas and 40 percent from domestically produced crude. The second E is environment. Propane is cleaner than gasoline. The third E is the economics. Today gasoline is anywhere from $3.50 to $3.70 a gallon. If you look at propane today before the tax incentives, you're looking at, for a tax exempt government entity, somewhere in the neighborhood of $2.20 to $2.30 a gallon.”
In addition, there is a 50 cent per gallon tax credit that is given back to the city at the end of the year. After the 50 cent tax credit, the actual cost per gallon for propane is in the $1.70 to $1.90 range, a significant saving from the $3.70 per gallon gasoline price, Denton said. Though the city is tax exempt, it is still eligible for the tax credit, he said.
With it's high octane rating of 104 compared to 92 for gasoline, maintenance costs on the vehicles will be much lower because the life of the engine will be better with no loss of power. The police vehicles will still be able to run on gasoline when propane runs low.