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Propane: the 'other white meat' of alternative fuels?

CleanFuel USA gets California Air Resources Board certification for its propane engine system designed for school buses and fleet trucks.

Curtis Donaldson, the CEO and president of CleanFuel USA, thinks that propane doesn't get its due as a transportation fuel.

His company on Monday is expected to announce that its propane engine system has been certified for use by the California Air Resources Board, a more stringent regulation than what the majority of other U.S. states use.

CleanFuel USA's propane pitch
CleanFuel USA is pitching propane as a desirable alternative fuel for school buses and other fleet vehicles. CleanFuel USA

CleanFuel USA supplies pumps and a propane engine system for medium-duty trucks, including vehicles such as school buses and fleets of delivery vehicles.

What's likely to be the primary reason that fleet operators would purchase propane-powered vehicles? Cost. Propane is priced between $2.39 and $2.59 a gallon, while diesel is over $4.50.

In addition, propane stacks up well environmentally against diesel and gasoline because it has lower levels of particulates, nitric oxide, and carbon dioxide emissions, Donaldson said. Fleet owners, such as schools, are also eligible to get a 50 cent per gallon federal tax credit.

Propane is made during the production of natural gas and as a byproduct of gasoline refining from crude oil. It won't displace gasoline in a large way anytime soon--there are only about 200,000 propane-powered vehicles in the U.S. right now, Donaldson said.

But he believes that propane can be a part of a bigger menu of fuels options.

And unlike ethanol, there's already a infrastructure to distribute it, Donaldson said. "In every little town in America, there's a propane distributor."